A day to celebrate Andrew Wyeth
By J. Chambless
Artist Jamie Wyeth said his father, Andrew, would have been thrilled to see his paintings on stamps.
By John Chambless
With traffic backed up in both
directions on Route 1, and cars parked on every available square foot
of ground, it was clear that something special was happening at the
Brandywine River Museum of Art on July 12.
As the epicenter of Andrew Wyeth Day in Pennsylvania, the museum hosted hundreds of visitors for a ceremony unveiling 12 stamps featuring the late artist's paintings. Marking the 100th anniversary of Wyeth's birth, the day was a media blitz that packed the museum's courtyard with journalists and camera crews, as well as fans who came to get a glimpse of artist Jamie Wyeth, Andrew's son.
With industrial-size fans blowing on the audience under a tent, Channel 6 meteorologist Cecily Tynan opened the event by saying, “My husband and I lived in Chadds Ford for a number of years, and we made some really close, special friends. We got married in Frolic Weymouth's beautiful chapel at Big Bend, and one of the highlights of the day was that my husband, Greg, went running that day and ran into 'Uncle Andy.' Andrew Wyeth was working on a landscape painting. Greg told me at the reception that what was so amazing was that 'Uncle Andy' had these white stripes under his nose, because he would lick the paintbrush to make a better point. He was painting some tents on Frolic's property. He would miss every now and then, and leave some paint on his face.”
Sophie Tyler, who is the great-grand-niece of Andrew Wyeth, sang the National Anthem to open the ceremony. In the audience were Nicholas Wyeth, Andrew's son; along with Brandywine Conservancy and Museum staff members, and Virginia Logan, the CEO of the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art. “This is a wonderful year of celebration for us,” she said. “The Brandywine has just observed its 50th anniversary. A little over 50 years ago, Andrew Wyeth led a rallying cry to protect a precious meadow at the corner of Route 1 and Creek Road. Today, Potts Meadow is the trailhead for a network of trails where you can literally walk in his footsteps. His history and ours are interwoven. He and his wife, Betsy, were key advisers to our founders.”
The idea for Andrew Wyeth stamps has taken years to come to fruition. Patrick Mendonca, the U.S. Postal Service Senior Director, Office of the Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer, recalled visiting the museum in 1980 and being fascinated with Andrew Wyeth's works.
“The Postal Service takes tremendous pride in its stamps program, which celebrates the very best in American life, history and culture,” he said. “This is a perfect day to celebrate the man whose masterful works have found a place in our homes and in our hearts. The Postal Service is very proud to recognize Anrdew Wyeth's achievements with this beautiful pane of stamps. Each one has the word 'Forever' along the bottom. Like Wyeth himself, and his astonishing paintings, they are timeless.”
In his remarks, Jamie Wyeth recalled drawing a 1971 Christmas stamp showing the partridge in a pear tree from “The 12 Days of Christmas,” and how several revisions were required. “I had worked for a month on this rather small painting. In the middle of my work, I got a call from the Postal Service that the denomination had gone from 6 cents to 8 cents,” Wyeth said. “So I had to very carefully remove the 6 and put on the 8. Then I got a second call that said it was not 'My true love gave to me,' it was 'My true love sent to me,'” he said as the audience laughed. “So the painting came back and I removed the word 'gave' and attached 'sent.' Finally, they issued 900 million of these stamps. In the next two weeks, they got thousands of letters from stamp collectors, saying, 'It's wrong! It's 'True love gave.' Of course, they all hoped it was wrong, because if the Postal Service had to withdraw it, they would have had a very valuable stamp,” he said, laughing.
“My father was a great letter writer,” he said of Andrew, “and he would put little drawings into them. The fact that he could attach one of his paintings to the envelope would have thrilled him beyond belief. He also would have been so honored to join an amazing group of American painters that the Postal Service has included in the 'American Painters' series. He now joins Winslow Homer, whose work he adored; Andy Warhol, who was a friend of mine; and then his great favorite, Edward Hopper. He also joins his own father, N.C. Wyeth, who was part of a series called 'American Illustrators.'
“I've always felt my father's paintings were little worlds unto themselves,” Wyeth said. “Now, to see them reduced to really small worlds is very exciting. So, happy birthday, Daddy. I think that, on this day, you are giving a gift yet again to the American people with 12 little images of your works. I cannot wait to use them.”
Tynan returned to announce that July 12 had been officially designated Andrew Wyeth Day in the state, and welcomed the crowd to enter the museum and see “In Retrospect,” the largest exhibition devoted to the artist that has ever been mounted at the museum. Covering two floors, the show contains more than 100 works. For more information about the exhibit and special events surrounding it, visit www.brandywine.org/museum.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.