CHADDS FORD, Pa. (AP) — A recent review of an Andrew Wyeth show calls his famous painting "Christina's World" the "best-loved worst painting in history."
But don't be a hater. Some of us love Wyeth, his work, and well, his entire family — including his father N.C. Wyeth and son Jamie. "Christina's World" is at New York's Museum of Modern Art, but fans can immerse themselves in Wyeth world by visiting historic sites and permanent collections in Maine and Pennsylvania, along with museums in Boston and Washington that are hosting special exhibits this summer. Here are the details.
CHADDS FORD, PENNSYLVANIA
You're not an uber-Wyeth fan until you've visited the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, which owns many works by all three Wyeths. A $40 package includes lunch, guided tours of museum galleries, plus visits to N.C.'s home and studio, and Andrew's home and studio, where Jamie also worked. For another $8, you can also tour Kuerner Farm, inspiration for many of Andrew's landscapes, still-lifes and portraits, including paintings of his secret muse Helga. You'll not only hear stories about the Wyeths, but you'll get a mini-art appreciation course from the excellent docents.
Among the museum's most memorable works: N.C.'s early 20th century illustrations for the children's book "Treasure Island." One shows a mother weeping into her apron as her young son leaves home, bag in hand, off on an adventure. The mother's reaction was not a big part of the story, but it's the type of emotional moment that N.C. zeroed in on.
The tours also offer a look at artifacts the Wyeths kept on hand to guide their realism, from helmets to a full-size canoe. You'll recognize landscapes and objects that inspired them, like the rolling green fields and hill outside Kuerner Farm, which figure in Andrew's work, and the bucket over the sink in the Kuerner barn from Andrew's rustic scene, "Spring Fed."
MAINE: CUSHING AND ROCKLAND
In the tiny coastal town of Cushing, Maine, you can visit the house where Andrew Wyeth painted "Christina's World." If you're among those who view the painting as middlebrow schlock, learning about the real Christina Olson, and Wyeth's interpretation of what he saw, may change your mind. Olson was crippled — though contrary to popular belief, not from polio — but did not use a wheelchair. She crawled across the farmyard to garden and hang laundry, a picture of dignity amid rural poverty.
The painting was deemed a masterpiece by the New York art establishment just before Abstract Expressionism rendered American realism passe — a view that still colors how Wyeth's work is sometimes perceived (witness the Washington City Paper review that recently called "Christina's World" the "best-loved worst painting in history").