ROCKLAND, Maine ― The Farnsworth Art Museum’s collection of Wyeth family artwork is growing by more than two dozen pieces following a donation from Betsy Wyeth, the late wife of renowned artist Andrew Wyeth.
The announcement of the gift comes just a year after Betsy Wyeth died at the age of 98 last April. The 27-piece donation includes work from her late husband, her father in-law, N.C. Wyeth, and her son, Jamie Wyeth.
The three generations of Wyeth artists, beginning with Andrew Wyeth’s father, illustrator N.C. Wyeth, are synonymous with Maine art. Since the early 1900s, the men have captured Maine’s rugged and rural landscapes and people, creating strong ties to coastal Knox County.
The latest Wyeth gift adds to an already substantial collection of Wyeth artwork held by the Farnsworth, with the museum’s main building boasting numerous works by Andrew Wyeth and the museum’s nearby Wyeth Center, which largely features work by N.C. Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth.
“The Farnsworth is so fortunate to have the ongoing support of the Wyeth family and we are deeply grateful for this treasured gift to the museum’s collections,” Farnsworth Director Christopher J. Brownawell said.
The pieces donated by Betsy Wyeth will be displayed beginning May 15, through an exhibition titled, “Betsy’s Gift: The Works of N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth.” An accompanying exhibition called, “Betsy Wyeth: Partner and Muse,” which features several Andrew Wyeth pieces that have never been publicly viewed, will run at the same time.
Included in Betsy Wyeth’s donation are two watercolors painted by Andrew Wyeth featuring the Olson House, including pieces titled “Room after Room” and “Geraniums.” The Olson House was a 1700s farmhouse in Cushing that served as one of the artist’s greatest sources of inspiration in Maine. The farmhouse is depicted in Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting, “Christina’s World.” Wyeth’s work at the Olson House went on to galvanize the art of others, including the author Christina Baker Kline, whose novel “A Piece of the World,” was inspired by “Christina’s World.”
It was Betsy Wyeth who introduced her husband to Christina and Alvaro Olson, who lived on the sprawling farm in Cushing. The access to their home provided by the Olson’s was the source of inspiration for nearly 300 works of art by Andrew Wyeth.
Betsy and Andrew Wyeth first formed a relationship with Farnsworth in 1944, four years before the museum officially opened and only five years after the couple met. At the time, the Farnsworth purchased six works from a “still relatively unknown” Andrew Wyeth, for the museum’s founding collections, according to Farnsworth Board President Gerry Isom.
“Betsy’s ongoing support of the Farnsworth was unwavering throughout her life and we owe her an immense debt of gratitude,” Isom said.
“Betsy’s Gift: The Works of N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth” will remain on display in the museum’s Hadlock Gallery through March 27, 2022, according to the Farnsworth.