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Wed04082020

Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

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.

Published in Visual Arts

Heather James Fine Art is surprising and delighting gallery-goers with Norman Rockwell’s humorous depictions of American life, along with portraits and studies by the renowned artist that uncover another level of his perception and skill.

“In putting together this Norman Rockwell show, we wanted to highlight examples of his artwork that illustrated the artist's working process,” said the gallery’s Hayden Hunt. “This can be seen through paintings like ‘Boy on a Weathervane,’ which is a study for a magazine cover; through ‘Study for “Boy With Melting Ice Cream Cones”’ that was a preliminary figure study for a painting; and even through the early painting ‘Gramercy Park,’ which was painted before Rockwell developed his strong narrative style of painting.”

The show includes several beautiful examples of storytelling, while others works depict a character in a unique way. For instance, “Weighing In (The Jockey)” reveals exaggerated figures—a seeming giant weighs a tiny jockey.

“We included images like ‘Weighing In’ because it reveals the artist’s skills at telling stories through a single image,” Hunt said. “This particular piece has a connection to the larger theme of the show, illustrating the artist's working process, because the painting of ‘Head Studies of a Girl (Peggy Best Sketch Class)’ actually has an under-drawing of ‘Weighing In’ visible underneath the painting. It shows how Rockwell reused his canvases and was continually adapting his ideas, or even abandoning them altogether.”

The small show includes some pieces on loan to Heather James.

“We chose to include artwork on loan that highlights interesting aspects of Rockwell's artistic output, which you don't see as often in paintings displayed in museums,” Hunt said. “‘Portrait of George A. Musselman’ is not a characteristic Rockwell painting, since it was not used as a magazine cover or for illustration purposes. Instead, it was actually commissioned by one of Rockwell's collectors; he owned about five major paintings by the artist.”

The show includes works in several different mediums—from full-color offset prints to paintings in oil—at various price points.

“Rockwell is best-known for his oil paintings, but he also did sketches in pencil,” Hunt said. “While he was alive, the artist began printing and selling lithographs of his artwork to sell out of his home in Stockbridge, Mass. He was well-known and loved by people around the country for his magazine covers, and he wanted to create signed works in media that were accessible to almost anyone who wanted one.”

One of the finest in the show is “Study for ‘Boy With Melting Ice Cream Cones.’” Not only does the young boy have stunning looks; Rockwell unveils the boy’s depth of personality and strength of character through beautiful paint strokes and color. It is a gem of a painting.

“I really love ‘Study for “Boy With Melting Ice Cream Cones,’” Hunt said. “He painted it in 1940. The model had done other jobs with various illustrators, but Rockwell used a different model to finish (the resulting work), because this model is too handsome. He chose a characteristic Rockwell look, with upturned nose, not this model, who has a Rat Pack look.”

This uncommon study of a very charismatic boy makes one wonder if perhaps there is even more to the story of the model change for the Saturday Evening Post cover.

A favorite artist of Americans everywhere, Rockwell had the gift of being able to tell through art.

“The paintings in the show and his other works show an entire narrative story from a single Rockwell image,” Hunt said. “He carefully planned everything out and used political overtures a lot. His Saturday Evening Post covers were complex.”

Norman Rockwell is on display through Monday, Jan. 30, 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

Published in Visual Arts