A new exhibit at the Brandywine River Museum puts Brandywine Valley art in the broader context of American art, according to Halsey Spruance, the director of public relations for the museum.
The exhibit, running through Nov. 19, is "Factory Work: Warhol Wyeth Basquiat," featuring works by Andy Warhol, Jamie Wyeth and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The show displays the difference in styles among the men, Spruance said. Warhol was the famous pop artist of the 1960s, Wyeth being a realist and Basquiat, a graffiti artist from the streets of New York.
And according to Jamie Wyeth, it also shows the influential relationship Warhol had with younger artists when he would have them work with him at his studio, The Factory, in New York.
"He gravitated to me and Basquiat, Wyeth said.
Wyeth worked with Warhol in the mid-1970s and said that, in retrospect, he can see some mutual influence between he and Warhol, but at the time his interest in going to The Factory was really just to record Warhol.
"Doing something with him was no different than me painting my pig," Wyeth said. "There was the same kind of interest and tenseness. Clearly, working at the Factory was not your everyday life. Everyday was a parade of all kinds of people. It was different in that sense, but Warhol was very serious about his work and it was really wonderful working together. It was an adventure, that's for sure."
Wyeth said the show is significant because of what it reveals about Warhol, but he wanted to include Basquiet in the show because it helps show the "broad, broad spectrum of Warhol as sort of a mentor, of how he mentored me then went to someone completely opposite in terms of painting and background and did the same thing with him. And the fact that our works are so unalike; it's fascinating."
An image of Warhol's that stands out in the memories of many people, Wyeth agreed, is that of a Campbell's Soup can. He said Warhol's strongest impact on him was as a recorder, "That was his great strength, he was like a tape recorder. Doing that he had his finger on the pulse of that time. ... [He recorded] not only objects, but of people of the time."
Not all of Wyeth's time in New York was spent at the Factory with Warhol. Before his days at The Factory, Wyeth explored the New York art world and the city's morgue. Part of his education in drawing the human form included sketching cadavers. Many of the great masters in history, such as Leonardo daVinci, learned the same way, and Wyeth said it has benefited his work.
When asked if that training enable him to capture the intensity of the great dancer Rudolph Nureyev, his answer was unequivocal: "Definitely. That was my interest, to get to know the human body. When it came to Nureyev, that when I could use that understanding of anatomy and how it articulated and how it moved. Obviously as a painter you can't catch somebody flying through the air, but having the knowledge of anatomy [helps]."
He said he knew many anatomists and could get into observe and even had his own cadavers on which to work.
Yet Wyeth also thinks that Warhol as a mentor is also blown out of proportion at times.
"He was just a fellow artist. He was older than me and showed me New York and the New York art world that I wasn't really in tune to. And he encouraged me to paint exactly as I came out of there wanting to do."
About 825 people viewed the exhibit during the opening night.