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Colby College Wins Islands That Inspire Andrew and Betsy Wyeth

Nestled in the Atlantic Ocean, five miles off the coast of the town of Port Clyde, Me. Picturesque, are two rugged islands with stories to tell. Allen and Benner, as they are called, have seen a wide range of inhabitants over the centuries, from Abenaki people and English colonists to lobster farmers. And then there were Betsy and Andrew Wyeth – midland Maine locals and the most famous members of what many consider to be America’s first artistic family.

After passing away in 2020 at the age of 98 of Betsy James Wyethformidable celebrity advisor, collaborator, business executive, muse and wife of realist painter Andrew Wyeth, a polar pattern In the history of American art, the keys to the castle are now passed on to a very young generation. (He passed away in 2009 at 91.)

Colby College of Waterville, Me., 75 miles inland from the islands, is set to announce that it has acquired Allen and Benner from two family campuses, Up East and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. Connecting Colby can breathe new life into a name that has lacked youthfulness for a while.

The islands are rich with wildlife and dotted with indigenous architecture – some restored by Betsy and some designed by her – evoking the thriving fishing village that once stood in this. In the acquisition, Colby not only added a 500-acre island campus to its 700-acre site in Waterville; it also plays an important role in relaying Wyeth’s complex legacy. While the university does not have ownership of any of Andrew’s artworks that have been on the islands, Colby University Art Museum would be the first to publicly present more than a dozen drawings he made in the 1990s of his imaginary funeral, which he kept secret, according to artist Jamie Wyeth, Andrew’s youngest son and Betsy.

Recently discovered images on the scene from June 2 to October 16, show Andrew lying in a coffin and the guests likely to be in attendance, including his wife and friends (those who are in the coffin). who is also your subject). Jamie Wyeth said: “Towards the end of his life, he was very worried. He saw a photo of a friend in a coffin at a viewing and it sent him into a “fucking” state, he added.

Colby College’s president, David Greene, said the college had cost the college $2 million, with the rest of the property’s market value – between $10 and $12 million in total, said Colby’s president. College, David Greene – contributed as an in-kind gift of the foundation. J. Robinson West, president of the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, said: “We could have held onto the islands, but seeing them frozen solid in amber would be a tragedy.

Betsy bought Allen Island in 1979 at the suggestion of Jamie, now 75 and spending most of his time on the South Island, which his parents bought in 1978, and Monhegan Island, where he lives in an artist-run home Rockwell Kent built. In 1990, Betsy also acquired Benner, the much smaller island next door. She spent May through October here, and so did her husband, whenever she could lure him by boat from his favorite workspace in her childhood home. he was in Port Clyde, in the studio of his father, the legendary illustrator NC Wyeth.

Allen and Benner were never the kind of swanky summer getaway one often finds on the Maine coast. “Betsy never identified with summer people,” West said. Neither does her husband. “I like Maine in spite of its scenery,” he told his eventual biographer, Richard Meryman.

Betsy and Andrew, who both grew up afloat on the nearby shoreline, share their appreciation for Maine’s tough-coasted working class, the same weather-resistant fishers, and the people. farm where Andrew is almost hauntingly depicted. There’s no great real estate to see here, but Betsy has built a commercial-scale dock for local lobbies to use as a pit stop. As the islands approached, a cluster of cedar and white plank structures emerged in the distance. And then hundreds of brightly colored lobster traps appeared stacked in neat towers.

“My mom really didn’t want the islands to become a museum,” Jamie Wyeth said during a visit to Allen and Benner last month with Greene and a reporter. “She wants them to be working islands. And they will work more now. “

Colby had partial access to Allen Island since 2016. and Greene is working with the foundation to determine the best use of historic buildings on Benner, where the Wyeths live. The goal of the school isn’t just taking care of structures, says Greene. “It’s also a recognition that these islands need to change over time for them to remain important and relevant, and to do so in a way that shows Betsy-like care for them.”

Colby is keeping the operational lobster wharf while expanding the use of the islands as an interdisciplinary research center. This is the right time to have a field station on the island; data indicates that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than most of the world’s oceans, and that students and faculty are closely monitoring biodiversity changes. Whitney King, a chemistry professor, said Colby’s new access has allowed the school to spearhead research and attract new faculty and funding. One big study Colby did around the economics of the lobster industry and how it might be affected over time is one way Greene is trying to expand on what they started.

Students also have a rich past to dig into. English explorer George Weymouth landed on Allen in 1605, and a stone cross bearing his name, planted on the edge of the island some 300 years later, is a reminder that the service of the Church of England The first church in North America was held here. It is a strange contrast to the part between the shell and the arrowhead found when Betsy arrived.

If the lobster traps stacked here today were more weathered, they could have been food for one of Andrew’s paintings. A household name throughout much of the 20th century, Andrew produced paintings that were loved by the masses as well as mocked by avant-garde critics for his realistic depictions of rural Maine and Chadds. Ford, Pa.

Wanda Corn, an American art historian, said: “I call it the ‘Wyeth Curse,’ referring to the belief that his work is less modern and more like illustration, and the audience his “artistically and politically conservative.”

That curse is fading over time, Corn said. On the occasion of their appearance at auction, top pieces by the trusty Andrew Wyeth get in seven figures. However, his artistic legacy today encounters another setback. Victoria Manning, whose gallery, Sommerville Manning, is near Chadds Ford, said: “The market for Andrew Wyeth is as steady as ever in a world of people who have always appreciated his work. “But for now, diversity is important for museums and the younger generation.”

In a 2017 review of his paintings of Blacks in the Brandywine Valley, historian Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw questioned the imbalance of power in his representation of raceand also points out that in a handful of paintings he has darkened the skin of his white model, Helga Testorf, a neighbor of Chadds Ford who has secretly photographed him for more than a year. decade.

Betsy’s wise management of her husband’s career has shaped his popularity and financial success. She critiqued his paintings, wrote books about him, helped determine what to sell, and cataloged every doodle. She also named many of his paintings, including the one that catapulted him to international stardom, “Christina’s World” (1948), was inspired by images of their physically disabled neighbor and friend Christina Olson, (Betsy introduced them in 1939 and later shaped the painting. .)

She also puts her influence and resources to work on the islands. “They were her other man,” said Mary Landa, the couple’s longtime collection manager. Betsy commissioned ecological research and conservation, and helped establish the Island Institute in Rockland, Me., the state’s first large archipelago advocacy group.

She created grasslands, dug ponds, restored ancient buildings – including some old ones salvaged from the mainland and reconstructed – and designed new ones, often using the bones of houses. old. She sometimes composes Wyeth-esque scenes to inspire her husband to paint. And sometimes he took the bait. His last work, “Goodbye,” 2008, shows Allen Island’s 19th-century sailing attic, salvaged from the mainland by Betsy and turned into a gallery, when a ghost figure the monster sails out of the plane.

A very small 19th-century house in Benner where two fishing families once lived used to be Andrew’s studio. Meanwhile, their nearby mansion, a replica of an 18th-century spearhead house, is sparingly decorated with country antiques and folk art with strict restraint markings. his paintings. One wonders if Betsy is the source of the aesthetic.

Replicas now hang in place of the original watercolors and temperatures that used to hang here every summer. The paintings from the couple’s collection are currently owned by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, which is releasing details of the estate settlement in March, West said. It’s unlikely a ship will hit the market like it did when Wyeths sold Andrew’s paintings Testorf.

Betsy left a number of parting gifts, including 27 works by three generations of Wyeth, Jamie, Andrew and NC men, to the Farnsworth Museum of Art in Rockland, Me., one of the larger archives. of Andrew’s work, along with the Brandywine River Art Museum in Chadds Ford.

It is not yet known how the Colby arrangement might affect the Colby University Art Museum, which has a strong focus on American art, with nearly 400 works by James McNeill Whistler, around 900 works. by Alex Katz and six works by Andrew Wyeth.

But as the islands change hands, the story of Wyeth is reaching far beyond the museum walls. Greene says he wants to be in a position where every student uses the campus on the island.

For Jamie Wyeth, it was bittersweet. “It’s been hard for me because I’ve spent a lot of time here,” he said. “But I think it’s a great future for the archipelago.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/arts/design/andrew-wyeth-colby-college-acquisition.html Colby College Wins Islands That Inspire Andrew and Betsy Wyeth

Fry Electronics Team

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