Jamie Wyeth: Back on the walls at the Brandywine

Victoria RoseCulture, Headlines


Artist Jamie Wyeth, right, led a crowd of reporters through his new exhibit, ‘Jamie Wyeth: Unsettled,’ at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford.

As you walk into “Jamie Wyeth: Unsettled” at the Brandywine Museum of Art, you are greeted by an experience designed to let you know immediately that this is not a typical Wyeth exhibit.

An automaton, a hidden music box spreading sinister tinkling tones and a taxidermied doglike critter on a vintage flotation device stand across from a projection portraying the automaton in full motion in all its grotesque glory.

Wyeth didn’t create them, but he did collect them, and the assemblage is the first hint that the exhibit will ask visitors “Are your perceptions trustworthy?” said Amanda C. Burdan, senior curator at the Brandywine Museum of Art and curator of this exhibition.

In more than 50 works, the celebrated artist shows a side many would never expect. Each invites closer inspection.

Wyeth psyche

What may look like a traditional oil painting in the Brandywine Tradition has unnerving elements, sharp shards of a fallen tree or the wingtip of a threatening bird.

It is presented in the vein of a haunted house, Burdan said.

As the viewer moves through the spaces, they become “nervous about what comes next in the narrative.”

Carrion is displayed in all its visceral clarity,  and walls in shades of gray and green with mullion-overlaid text panels highlight the shadows of both the natural world and the mind.

With other pieces from Wyeth’s own collection, this exhibition not only shows Wyeth’s perspective, but “introduces you to the mysterious world in which Jamie lives on a daily basis,” Burdan said.


The first object in The Brandywine Museum of Art’s new Jamie Wyeht exhibit is this automaton collected by Wyeth and echoed in a film loop by an actor dressed as the automaton appearing from the shadows.

Wyeth led a tour of the exhibition for the press last month.

He started with the automaton, noting these robotic creatures were not an instant hit.

“It was a confusing, threatening thing where they put machines into these figurines,” he said.

The music box tones follow as he walks past his other works, where dark figures peek out from behind trees or nature bursts from canvas to envelop the frame.

“Most of my paintings are done in bed at night, dreaming,” said Wyeth. He keeps a notebook by the bed and frequently wakes to scattered pages covered in indecipherable marks, which he translates in his studio to intense, fantastically detailed paintings.

In this exhibition, “Visitors can explore their darker side,” he added. “It is not what you see. It is how it affects you.”

Wyeth, in his dandified disheveled outfit, bright red sneakers highlighting the single red button on his vest, echoes decades, if not centuries, of changing fashion.


One corner of Wyeth’s exhibit features paintings of du Pont holdings and one colorful one of his wife, which bloomed out of the canvas.

His paintings and their surroundings reflect that as well.

While some have simple wooden frames, others are set in giant gold rococo frames, screen doors, broken glass, or dioramas. It is an unexpected use of mixed media.

Perhaps the most intriguing piece is Butcher Shop, a tableau vivant featuring a man at work at his thick wood table, surrounded by the implements and detritus of his craft. It is not a vision for the faint of heart, with bloody streaks down the walls lined with animal carcasses, but the tiny details are exquisite.

One viewer, stunned, said, “Oh, that is the same tile that was in my kitchen as a child,” recreated in perfect miniature.

“They are a little weird,” Wyeth said, explaining that he would create every element, down to the exquisite clothes. Later he would wonder, “Why did I spend so much time on this?”

But the reward is in those details for the viewers, who — for those inclined to these macabre scenes — can revel in the minutiae.

Wyeth noted that it is explicit: “A little overt, that one.”

The classic subjects of Jamie Wyeth are included as well, familiar faces of pop-stars, politicians, and the Wyeth family of artists itself.


“Apples: Fifth in the Screen Door Sequence,” left, is the first time Jamie Wyeth has focused a painting on his grandfather, N.C., except for blurry images in the background after the death of his father, Andrew.


A newer piece is “Apples: Fifth in the Screen Door Sequence,” from 2021, which depicts N. C. Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth’s grandfather, the first time he has painted the man as the focus of a piece.

N.C. and Andy Warhol appeared in the background of some scenes Jamie Wyeth painted after the death of his father, Andrew.

N. C. was a hugely influential painter and illustrator, and an overshadowing force well past his sudden death a year prior to Jamie’s birth. It is interesting that the longer Jamie Wyeth’s career extends, the farther back in his family tree he reaches for inspiration.

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Wyeth’s work invites musings, repeat viewings and introspection. But there is also a huge amount of beauty on display.

“It is like a magical trip through the Brandywine,” said Burdan. “I love how the natural world is made supernatural.”

The exhibition highlights the inner workings of an artist, a gallery full of intrusive thoughts brought into existence, she said.

“It is a mark of creativity, to imagine worlds, and then make them happen,” she said.

“Jamie Wyeth: Unsettled” is on view at the Brandywine Museum of Art through June 9, before traveling to four other art museums: Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, July 4–Sept. 29; Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, S.C., Nov. 27, 2024 –Feb. 16, 2025; Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio, March 15–June 8, 2025; and Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington, July 12–Oct. 5, 2025

A fully illustrated catalogue is co-published by Rizzoli Electa and Brandywine.

The Brandywine Museum of Art is located at 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford.


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