Whenever a family of artists works collectively, it’s natural to both be intrigued by individual works, and curious about the sum of their creative endeavors. When the family’s works are gathered together in one place, the art can be put into perspective—even if that perspective is shaped by one’s personal taste in art.
If you find yourself at the end of an El Paseo shopping spree or dining adventure, it would be well worth your while to wander into Heather James Fine Art to visit the intriguing exhibit Art of the Wyeth Family, which will be on display through June.
The exhibit features artwork by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) and his many talented family members and descendants, spanning three generations. Included are works by N.C. Wyeth’s children Henriette, Carolyn, Ann and Andrew (a National Medal of Arts winner who, in 2011-2012, was the subject of a retrospective at the Palm Springs Art Museum). Also included are works by son-in-law John McCoy; grandchildren Jamie Wyeth and Maude Robin McCoy; and grandniece Anna B. McCoy—all celebrated American painters on their own. It may be worth taking your family and pointing out what a family can do when they work together—but again, that is a matter of taste.
The family story includes the insistence by patriarch N.C. Wyeth that his children learn the traditional aspects of creating, while emphasizing the importance of observing the natural world and expressing their place in it. The Wyeth family’s roots are on the East Coast, mostly in Maine and Pennsylvania, and naturalistic representations of the landscape, wildlife and area inhabitants are prevalent and were passed down through the generations. There is a century of time between the earliest painting in this exhibition and the artists who are still at work today.
Gallery consultant Hayden Hunt said N.C. Wyeth’s work is similar in style to that of Norman Rockwell.
“This exhibit is unique to the Coachella Valley in that it is different from the Western influences normally represented,” he said. “The art included is a unique look at the character who guided his family into the world of painting.”
N.C. Wyeth is known mostly for his illustrations for novels (Treasure Island, The Last of the Mohicans, Robinson Crusoe) and magazine covers (The Saturday Evening Post), but he also created posters, calendars and advertisements for clients such as Lucky Strike, Cream of Wheat and Coca-Cola. He painted murals for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the First National Bank of Boston and other buildings, both public and private.
Later in life, he insisted that he was “trapped” by the commercial work, and never attained the personal satisfaction or public recognition that he sought for his art. Therefore, it was up to his family to carry on and create the legacy that is now on display. He fostered “friendly competition” between his children, and brought in his daughter’s suitor, John McCoy, to raise the stakes.
Notable works in Art of the Wyeth Family include “Once the Girl Started Through the Yard as Though She Would Rush After Them and Stopped at the Gate” by N.C. Wyeth; it’s a work of subtle simplicity with a complex title. The portrait “Anna B.” by Henriette Wyeth and the stark “Red Tail Hawk” by Jamie Wyeth also draw one’s attention.
Art of the Wyeth Family is on display through June at Heather James Fine Art, 45188 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 760-346-8926, or visit www.heatherjames.com.