Thursday, April 26, 2018

Delaware Exhibition Pairs Ruskin and Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth, Flock of Crows
We stopped by the Delaware Art Museum to visit the exhibition Eye on Nature: Andrew Wyeth and John Ruskin.

Curator Margaretta Frederick took us through the show, which pairs 30 rare watercolors by the 19th century British writer/artist Ruskin with 28 watercolors and dry brush works by Andrew Wyeth. 
Although there's no evidence that Wyeth was directly inspired by Ruskin's writings, it's interesting to reflect on how the two artists regarded the study of nature.   

John Ruskin
Ruskin said "When once we see keenly enough, there is very little difficulty in drawing what we see." 

John Ruskin, Trees in a Lane, perhaps at Ambleside, 1847.
Pencil, black and brown ink, and ink wash, 17 5/8 x 22 5/8 inches.
He was famous for his admonition that young painters "should go to Nature in all singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly, having no other thoughts but how best to penetrate her meaning, and remember her instruction; rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing; believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth."

But he also added that "straight documentation does not make up a work of art," and he recommended that once artists fill their eyes and minds with nature's forms, they should "take up the scarlet and the gold, give the reins to their fancy, and show us what their heads are made of." 

Wyeth, watercolor study of a blackberry branch
Wyeth said, "Art to me, is seeing. I think you have got to use your eyes, as well as your emotion, and one without the other just doesn't work." 

He did careful studies throughout his career, and used them to "get down to the real substance of life itself."

Andrew Wyeth Sycamore Tree, detail
Wyeth's large drybrush drawings are an impressive testament to his patience and concentration. 

He had deep appreciation for ordinary subjects close to home. He said, "You can be in a place for years and years and not see something...and then when it dawns, all sorts of nuggets of richness start popping all over the place. You've gotten below the obvious."
The exhibition Eye on Nature will be on view at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington through May 27, 2018.
Gallery of online images from the exhibition
Upcoming events:
Ferns and Flowers Monoprinting, April 29
On Location Photography Workshops, Sundays, April – June
Nature Sketching Sunday, May 20Thanks, Margaretta Frederick and Stephen Wildman


Peter Drubetskoy said...

Seeing the small Flock of Crows image at the top of the post, it occurred to me for the first time that the whole composition is a flying bird shape. Could it be by chance?

Linda Navroth said...

Peter, that is a brilliant observation! I've never noticed that about this painting before and it's one of my favorites of his!

Timothy Bollenbaugh said...

Well, folks—as much was said of us in the end paragraph! Great observation!


scottT said...

Looking at Wyeth's compositions I think although he was a realist and outside the trend of modern art, he was very aware of abstractionists such as Pollock, Kline, and Motherwell. There is a strong underpining of abstraction in his work. I love his trees and especially his early work which has an lyrical, depression era 30's look that looked slightly illustrative.

Speaking of Pollock, if you squint your eyes a little, (and especially if you block out the open space in the bottom third), that tree drawing looks just like a drip and splatter painting.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

@Linda, thank you, the more I think about it the more I convince myself that this is intentional. Even the name of the piece could be seen as a kind of a tongue in cheek invitation to figure it out - after all, the actual flock depicted is so small and could hardly be the main focus of the painting.
@scottT, very astute, Wyeth himself insisted he was an abstract painter. For example: "A lot of people say I’ve brought realism back [...] I honestly consider myself an abstractionist".