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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 24, 2018

In a pair of exhibits at the Farnsworth, never-before-seen Andrew Wyeth paintings on view

Written by: Bob Keyes

Rockland Harbor watercolor on paper.The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection © 2018 Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society
Photo courtesy of The Farnsworth Museum

It’s hard to imagine there are exhibition-quality paintings by Andrew Wyeth that have never been seen before, but that’s how the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland is promoting its latest Wyeth exhibitions, “Andrew Wyeth: Temperas and Studies from the Wyeth Collection” and “Andrew Wyeth in Rockland.”

The tempera and studies exhibition features art works that have been on loan to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Pennsylvania and the Seattle Art Museum for Wyeth retrospectives on the 100th anniversary of his birth last year. This show pairs several finished temperas with studies, as well as Wyeth’s final tempera, “Goodbye, My Love,” which he completed shortly before he died in January 2009. The Rockland show includes paintings he made while in town and serves as a guide to Wyeth’s vision of Rockland, showcasing the city’s industrial and architectural characteristics.

Andrew Wyeth, “Rockland Light,” 1961, watercolor on paper. The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection © 2018 Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society
Photo courtesy of The Farnsworth Museum

Both exhibitions are on view through the fall. Together, they offer visitors the chance to look at a few Wyeth paintings that have never been exhibited publicly, said Amy Morey, who directs the Wyeth Study Center at the museum. “These are paintings from Andrew and (his widow) Betsy’s personal collection, which in itself is important. Andrew worked hard to keep the paintings they loved in the collection or in some cases, worked to get them back. These are all paintings that meant a lot to them,” Morey said.

Among the pieces on view is “Sea Dog Study,” a tempera from 1971. It’s a picture of Walt Anderson, a frequent subject of Wyeth’s paintings, including most famously for the oil painting “Adrift.” As is the case with many Wyeth studies, this one might look like a finished painting to a casual observer. Wyeth portrays his friend as he looks sideways over a shoulder, his ruddy cheeks and penetrating blue eyes presenting themselves as defining, rigid characteristics even more than his curly, reddish hair and hawk-like nose. The painting creates the impression that this sea dog is rugged and burly and ready for anything that comes his way.

Below, Andrew Wyeth, “Sea Dog Study,” 1971, tempera on panel. The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection © 2018 Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society
Photo courtesy of The Farnsworth Museum

The Rockland paintings demonstrate that Wyeth’s trips to town from Cushing and the islands weren’t just for lunch. He didn’t make Rockland a frequent subject of his paintings, but he painted images of the city throughout his life, Morey said.

“It was not a once or twice thing, but a steady thing,” she said. “He would come to Rockland and spend the day wandering around and finding something that captivated him,” Morey said.

Leith MacDonald, who works with Morey at the center, said these paintings demonstrate that Wyeth knew his subject well. These paintings reflect the Rockland of Wyeth’s time, from the 1940s through the 2000s. “He definitely was attracted to the working waterfront, but one thing I found so interesting about these paintings is that he captured what was important to the heart of Rockland – fishing, architecture, the train tracks. There was a big transformation of Rockland during that time, but you can see the old waterfront and you can see the industrial side of Rockland.”

“Rockland Light,” a watercolor from 1961, shows the boxy lighthouse tower from the side below. It’s a study in shadows, lines and conveying mood with color.

The Farnsworth has shown studies for his final painting, “Goodbye, My Love,” which shows a small sailboat moving through calm water as it passes by a stately island home. This is the first time the museum has shown the finished painting.

MacDonald drove cross-country to bring some of these paintings home to Maine after they were shown in Seattle. The drive east felt symbolic, like he was bringing the art work to its rightful resting place, he said. “Every mile felt closer to home,” he said. “It’s exciting to get them back in Rockland.”

“Andrew Wyeth: Temperas and Studies from the Wyeth Collection” and “Andrew Wyeth in Rockland”

WHERE: Farnsworth Art Museum, 16 Museum St., Rockland
WHEN: “Temperas” on view through Oct. 21; “Rockland” on view through Nov. 4
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday; beginning Memorial Day, open daily
ADMISSION: $12 adults, $10 seniors and students, free 16 and younger and Rockland residents
INFO: 596-6457,

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