Andrew Wyeth is to Maine as Andy Warhol is to New York. When you think of art here, the painter’s haunted, brooding works leap to mind. The artist, if still alive, would be 100 years old this week.
His work lives on throughout the state: In galleries, on islands, in established museums and glimpses of his vision can be seen all along Maine’s rugged coast and saltwater farms. To discover for yourself the range and insight of Wyeth’s art, here are five rewarding destinations. Charge your batteries and go.
The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland is the keeper of the Wyeth flame. This year the institution, which has one of the largest public collections of all three generations of Wyeths,
goes all out. Celebrating Andrew Wyeth’s centennial birthday with more than 100 original artifacts, from drawings to paintings, it is a good place to start.
“If there is such a thing as a purely American tradition of art … the landscapes, the moodiness, the rural life that is such a part of Maine’s tradition, it is all throughout his canvassas,” said David Troup, communications officer for the Farnsworth.
While not Mona Lisa, “Christina’s World” is inescapably associated with Wyeth’s iconic status. The plaintive work of a partially paralyzed farm woman crawling through the grass, “Christina’s World” can become your world on a walk through Olson House in Cushing.
Wyeth painted more than 300 works featuring the stark, 1700’s house. To take in a view from the windows is to walk into Wyeth’s source of inspiration. “There is a soul to that house,” said Troup of the national monument where the painter is also buried. The house is open for public tours from Wednesdays through Sundays.
Hopping a ferry to this art-inspired island immediately brings you closer to the wonder of Wyeth. Andrew painted out here, his son Jamie Wyeth still does, and this museum housed in the historic Monhegan Light Station offers a real sense of place. Wyeth’s 1957 work “Coast Guard” depicts nearby Manana Island and the fog signal station that dates back to 1854. “It’s beautiful and historically important,” said Emily Grey, curator at the museum. The nautical piece also shows a 57-foot tall wooden tripod that formerly stood on Western Duck Rock as an aid for navigation.
Visiting the island “is an important dimension to the Wyeth story” said Grey. “It’s on the list.”
Located in the fishing village of Port Clyde, this Wyeth-centric gallery is where you can take an exclusive piece of Wyeth home with you. Director Ron Crusan heads up the collection of Wyeth family paintings, including rare signed prints from Andrew. You can peruse out-of-print art books and N.C. Wyeth illustrated children’s classics and American textbooks.
“The Wyeths have been coming to Port Clyde for 100 years,” said Crusan. “They could’ve gone to Boothbay.” Many works capture the “rustic, real and active seaport” that still thrives here.
For VIP treatment and to get one-on-one with Wyeth, plan a trip to the PMA to view its extensive Andrew Wyeth works in private. Book an appointment in the art study room and examine works on paper like “Blueberry Country” and “Northern Coast” and others that are not on display now. Bonus: a curator will take the work out and share personal knowledge. To understand Wyeth’s powerful and artistic lineage in Maine, don’t miss Andrew’s father’s “Dark Harbor Fishermen,” on the third floor. N.C. Wyeth’s masterpiece set the son on a painterly path.