Excursions: Pennsylvania

April, May and early June proved to be an especially busy time for me at the Museum. Installing and opening three exhibitions in as many weeks constituted a major part of that (which I'll never let happen on the schedule again), but I also had two back-to-back trips to two very different parts of the country. The first one took me to Irvine, California for a conference, and the second one took me to Pennsylvania for research.

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Since 2014 I've been collaborating with the Michener Art Museum on a retrospective of Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth. It will open in Pennsylvania in January 2018, then come to Roswell for the summer. The Michener's curator has come out to New Mexico several times for research, but this year I finally had the chance to go back east and reciprocate.

Founded in 1988 and located in Doylestown, the Michener is an art museum dedicated to the art of the Bucks County region, and named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, James A. Michener. Its holdings are particularly strong with regard to Pennsylvania Impressionism and decorative arts, though it has some great contemporary pieces as well. Bucks County is only about an hour from Chadds Ford, the home of the Wyeths, hence why we're working on the show together.

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The purpose of the trip was to not only do research, but also to see the Michener itself and to get a sense of its gallery spaces. Naturally the show won't look exactly alike in either museum because their layouts are different, but nevertheless it was good to see the space and compare the relative scale to our galleries.

During the evenings, I made a point of walking around the neighborhoods.

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Most of the week was spent in Chadds Ford at the Brandywine River Museum, which houses the letters of the Wyeth family. I spent my time reading the correspondence of N.C. Wyeth, who was a prolific letter-writer. One letter included an in-depth discussion of one of Hurd's lithographs, Dona Nestorita, a portrait of an elderly Spanish American woman. 

Peter Hurd, Dona Nestorita, 1940, lithograph on paper. Image courtesy of http://www.artgallery.umd.edu/node/320

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We also visited the studio of N.C. Wyeth himself to check out one of Henriette's paintings. I can only begin to imagine how awed and overwhelmed Hurd must have felt when he saw this space for the first time. It's bigger than my house in Roswell, and replete with artifacts, paintings, and enormous windows.

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I also couldn't get over how thick with vegetation this region is. Hurd writes about it in his letters, calling it opulent, but that's entirely different from seeing and experiencing it in person. True, I am from New England, but I've in Roswell for four years now, so it's been a long time since I've been back east during the spring. I had forgotten how lush and green everything can get, and really is a striking contrast to the more arid, sparse ecology of New Mexico. Being able to go back east at this time of year, when everything is so verdant, and the humidity high enough to be noticeable, really helped me appreciate the shock and adjustment both Hurd and Henriette Wyeth must have experienced every time they traveled from Pennsylvania to New Mexico, and vice-versa.

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I also made a point of going to Philadelphia, since I don't get out to big cities often. I first went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where I was able to see American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent. I'd known about this show for a while, but since it wasn't traveling I figured I would never get to see it. It was an excellent show, and while it had plenty of examples by the big hitters like Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and Thomas Eakins, I especially enjoyed being able to see works by artists I'd never heard of.

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I also made a point of getting out the Barnes Foundation, which I talked about in a previous Sketch of the Week
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After the museums had closed for the day I took a long walk by the river. Most great cities are built by major waterways, and Philadelphia is no exception, with the river in question being the Schuykill. Rowing is a big deal around here, so not surprisingly I encountered a team practicing on the water. It was a pleasant throwback to one of the Eakins watercolors I had earlier in the day.

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And of course, I did plenty of sketching.

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I had a great time on the trip. I was able to do some meaningful research, as well as explore some new places. Soon enough it was time to go back to New Mexico, but I'm definitely glad that I was able to make it out there.

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