June 21, 2018
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Wyeth’s ‘deadly sins’ acted out by sea gulls


ROCKLAND, Maine — A Jamie Wyeth exhibition is on display in Rockland for the first time since its premier in New York in 2007.

“Jamie Wyeth: Seven Deadly Sins” is on view in the Farnsworth Art Museum’s Wyeth Center through Sunday, Aug. 30, before traveling to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa.

Wyeth’s monumental painting, “Inferno, Monhegan,” also will be included.

The exhibition of Jamie Wyeth’s 2007 series of paintings is a rare example of a contemporary artist taking on a subject long associated with the history of Christian art.

The subject’s focus is human frailty — specifically the sins of pride, envy, anger, greed, sloth, gluttony and lust, codified as the seven deadly sins in the writings of the late 13th century Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas.

Dante dealt with the theme in his famed “Divine Comedy,” Chaucer in his “The Canterbury Tales” and Shakespeare’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe in his plays.

Perhaps the most famous painted treatment of the subject is that of the 16th-century Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch. By the 20th century, however, the subject had disappeared from artists’ repertoires, only to be revived in the 1930s by the playwright Bertolt Brecht and choreographer George Balanchine.

It was Cadmus’ surreal 1945-1949 paintings of the seven deadly sins, however, that inspired Jamie Wyeth decades after first seeing them to do his own series of paintings on the theme.

Wyeth’s take on the subject is characteristically his own — the sins are acted out by seagulls, birds the artist has observed for decades along the coast of Maine and from his studios on Monhegan and Matinicus islands. As he noted in an interview for the exhibition, “gulls are nasty birds, filled with their own jealousies and rivalries.”

The exhibition will focus on the seven paintings, accompanied by written and visual materials that place Wyeth’s work within the subject’s long iconographic history.

Organized by Farnsworth Interim Director and Chief Curator Michael K. Komanecky, the exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalog. The primary media sponsor for the exhibition is Down East magazine, books and online.

In association with the exhibition, Wyeth and Komanecky will hold a discussion, “A Conversation with Jamie Wyeth,” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5, in the museum auditorium. Limited to 80 people, the program has a fee of $15 for museum members, $20 others.

A Curator’s Choice Gallery Talk on “Jamie Wyeth: Seven Deadly Sins” will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug, 12. The talk is free with museum admission and limited to the first 20 registrants.

Jamie Wyeth will be on hand 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, to sign books, exhibition catalogs and prints at the Wyeth Center.

The public is invited to purchase items from the museum store at the event or bring personal copies. Each person will be limited to two items signed. Meet Jamie Wyeth and leave with a personalized copy of a favorite book.

Presentations also will be given at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12, at Smith Hokanson Memorial Hall at the Vinalhaven School; at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, at the Historical Society on Islesboro; and at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, at the Waterman’s Community Center on North Haven.

Farnsworth Director of Education Roger Dell will examine European and American artworks that depict the infamous set of early Christian sins.

Linking the study to “Jamie Wyeth: Seven Deadly Sins,” Dell will explore how Wyeth’s vision — the wildlife on the Maine coast and islands including seagulls, lobsters and various fish — enacts and brings special traits to sinning. The three island presentations are free.

To obtain more information or to register for these associated programs, call the museum education department at 596-0949 or visit the education section of the Farnsworth’s new Web site at www.farnsworthmuseum.org.

Winter hours at the museum are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday through May 24. The museum is closed on Monday. Beginning May 26, the museum’s summer hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. each day of the week except Wednesday, when the museum is open until 8 p.m. Museum admission is free 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays during summer hours.

Admission is $12, $10 seniors, $10 age 17 and older, free to children 16 and under, Rockland residents and museum members.

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