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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: April 10, 2017

The Farnsworth goes all out for Andrew Wyeth’s 100th birthday

Written by: Bob Keyes
Andrew Wyeth, Alvaro and Christina, 1968 watercolor on paper. Farnsworth Museum of Art, © 2017 Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Andrew Wyeth, Alvaro and Christina, 1968 watercolor on paper. Farnsworth Museum of Art, © 2017 Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society (ARS)

If you’re a fan of Andrew Wyeth, you’re going love 2017.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the painter’s birth, and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland is going all out to celebrate. The museum has five Wyeth exhibitions, including two that open on Saturday. “Andrew Wyeth: Maine Watercolors, 1938-2008” includes 40 Maine paintings and “The Olson House: Photographers’ Muse” features photographs of perhaps the most famous house in American art, the Olson House of Cushing, where Wyeth spent summers and made his best-known painting, “Christina’s World.”

Both are on view at the museum’s Wyeth Center. The photography show is up through Oct. 29, and the watercolors are on view until the end of the year.

Andrew Wyeth, Dr. Syn, 1981 tempera on panel. The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection, © 2017 Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Andrew Wyeth, Dr. Syn, 1981 tempera on panel. The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection, © 2017 Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Earlier in the spring, the museum opened an exhibition dedicated to a single painting, “Dr. Syn,” and the preparatory work that Wyeth did leading up to the painting, as well as a major drawing show, an under-appreciated aspect of Wyeth’s artistic practice. The final of the five is a fall exhibition dedicated to the painting “Her Room.”

The watercolor exhibition features many of the Wyeth’s most important Maine paintings over the span of his career, including a study for his final work, “Goodbye my Love.” Farnsworth curator Michael K. Komanecky worked with art scholar Henry Adams to assemble the show.

Wyeth gets a lot of attention for his tempera paintings, and for good reason. He was a master of the medium. But the tempera paintings took a long time to execute, so there are fewer of them. Wyeth worked more freely in watercolors and other water-based media, and it was with watercolors where he distinguished himself, Komanecky said. “To me, Andrew Wyeth’s greatest contribution as an American artist was his work with watercolors and dry brush, another water-based media he favored,” he said.

This exhibition traces the evolution of his skills and technique, from the highly expressive and bold colors of his earliest work to the earth tones and more subdued colors that he turned to mid-career.

Peter Ralston (American, b. 1950), OlsonÕs, 2009, Archival ink print, Collection of Peter Ralston/ Ralston Galleries, © 2009 Peter Ralston

Peter Ralston (American, b. 1950), Olson’s, 2009, Archival ink print, Collection of Peter Ralston/ Ralston Galleries, © 2009 Peter Ralston

The drawing show exposes Wyeth’s earliest roots, and explores the range and role of drawings over the course of Wyeth’s career. His father, the illustrator N.C. Wyeth, tutored him, and Wyeth became an expert draftsman, Komanecky said. He used his drawings for many purposes. Some were quick sketches and observations of his world. Others helped prepare him for a painting, but he was drawing all the time, and he drew with frenzied energy. Few people were allowed in his studio, but those who were described drawings scattered about the floor.

Wyeth, who was from Pennsylvania, used the Olson House and its surroundings for dozens of paintings over the years. The house has also been a magnet and inspiration for photographers, thanks to the attention it received from “Christina’s World.” This exhibition includes photos by Paul Caponigro, Kosti Ruohomaa, George Tice and others. At 1 p.m. Saturday, Komanecky will lead a talk about the Olson House with photographers Ewa Zebrowski, Brian Vanden Brink, Tillman Crane and Peter Ralston, who also have works included in the exhibition.

“Andrew Wyeth at 100”

WHERE: Farnsworth Art Museum, 16 Museum St., Rockland
DETAILS: The Farnsworth has five Wyeth exhibitions this year. “Maine Watercolors, 1938-2008” opens Saturday and is on view through Dec. 31; “The Olson House: Photographers’ Muse” opens Saturday, on view through Oct. 29; “Maine Drawings” is on view through Dec. 31; “Dr. Syn” is on view through Sept. 9. “Her Room” opens Sept. 20
ADMISSION: $15 adults, $13 seniors, $10 students 17 and older, free 16 and younger
SPRING HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday
INFO: farnsworthmuseum.org; 207-596-6457
RELATED: Chief Curator Michael Komanecky will lead a talk with photographers Ewa Zebrowski, Brian Vanden Brink, Tillman Crane and Peter Ralston at 1 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $8, $5 for members.

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