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July 5th, 2006
Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Donate Nine Sketches and Watercolors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art announced today that it has received a gift of nine studies for Groundhog Day (1959) one of Andrew Wyeth’s best-known paintings, from the artist and his wife, Betsy Wyeth. The Wyeths gave the four graphite drawings and five watercolor studies to the Museum in honor of the retrospective exhibition Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic, on view at the Museum through Sunday, July 16, 2006. The couple said they were donating the studies as a “thank you for one of the finest shows of Andy’s work he has ever had.”

In the exhibition, Groundhog Day, a beloved tempera painting acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1959, is shown in relation to the preparatory drawings and watercolors that chart Wyeth’s working process, from initial, quick, pencil sketches to adventurous watercolor studies. The final images are very different from the artist’s initial concepts, although the emotional resonance of his initial inspiration carries through. The tempera painting conveys the sense of pale sunlight raking across a windowsill and striking the flowered wallpaper of an empty room, the kitchen in the Kuerner farm in Chadds Ford, where a table is set for one. Wyeth regards the painting as a portrait of his neighbor Karl Kuerner, and has called it his attempt to “get down to the essence of the man who wasn’t there.”

“To show these deft preparatory sketches and expressive watercolors leading up to Groundhog Day has been a highlight of Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, providing us with new insights into the work of a remarkable artist,” said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “We are so grateful to Andrew and Betsy Wyeth for this wonderful gift that commemorates a momentous exhibition. They deepen our understanding of a great painting in our collection, and in their immediacy and vitality they are eloquent as individual works.”

Kathleen Foster, the Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Curator of American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and organizer of the Wyeth retrospective in Philadelphia, notes that Wyeth’s first sketches for Groundhog Day include Anna Kuerner seated by the window, with the family’s German shepherd, Nell, asleep at her feet. “These figures ultimately disappeared as his ideas developed,” said Foster. “His pencil and watercolor studies show his habit of drawing as a way to understand the subject completely and commit it to memory.”

“This gift is a fabulous addition to the Museum’s drawings collection. Not only is Groundhog Day one of the most important paintings in Wyeth's oeuvre, but the preparatory studies provide a textbook example of the astonishingly subtle and complex process through which Wyeth creates his paintings,” said Innis Howe Shoemaker, The Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through July 16, 2006. The exhibition organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta with the collaboration of the Wyeth family and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Before opening in Philadelphia, it was on view at the High through February 26, 2006. The exhibition is made possible by Ford Motor Company. In Philadelphia, the exhibition is also generously supported by the Lincoln and Mercury Brands of Ford Motor Company; GlaxoSmithKline; and PECO, An Exelon Company.

Ticket prices for Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, which include complimentary audio tours—one for adults, another for children--are $20 (adults) $17 (students, seniors), $10 children 5-12, and free for children 4 and under. For information, call 215-235 SHOW (7469) or visit the website at (service charges apply for tickets purchased via the web). Normally closed on Mondays, the exhibition will be open on Monday, July 10 in its final week.

The exhibition is made possible by Ford Motor Company.

In Philadelphia, the exhibition is also generously supported by the Lincoln and Mercury Brands of Ford Motor Company; GlaxoSmithKline; and PECO, An Exelon Company.

Additional support has been provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the City of Philadelphia, and an endowment from The Annenberg Foundation for major exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Promotional support is provided by NBC 10 WCAU, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News,, and Amtrak.

The exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The catalogue is supported by a generous grant from the Davenport Family Foundation.

Andrew Wyeth

Born in 1917 in Chadds Ford, Pa., southwest of Philadelphia, Andrew Wyeth is one of America’s most highly regarded living artists. The youngest of five children, Wyeth received his artistic training from his father, the famed illustrator Newell Convers (N.C.) Wyeth. During annual vacations to Maine, Wyeth explored watercolor and tempera—both would become his signature media. Subject matter for Wyeth’s paintings and drawings came primarily from his surroundings in Pennsylvania and Maine. In 1939 Wyeth married Betsy James. They had two sons, Nicholas and James. James Wyeth, who is also a painter, is the third-generation artist in the family.

In 1936, at the age of 19, Wyeth held his first solo exhibition at the Art Alliance in Philadelphia. In 1963 President Kennedy awarded Wyeth the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the first visual artist to be honored with the nation’s highest civilian award. Opened in 1972, the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa., became closely associated with the Wyeth family as one of the largest repositories of works by the Wyeths. In 1990 Wyeth was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, again the first artist to receive this honor.

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