The Wyeths Penchant for Pumpkin Painting and Halloween

wyeth family pumpkin paintings
Andrew Wyeth, Mischief Night, 2002, watercolor on paper, private collection
Jamie Wyeth, Mischief Night, 1986, Mixed media on paper, 22.5” x 31”

If you’re at all familiar with American Art, you know the work of at least one of the Wyeths. The Wyeths are America’s most famous multi-generational family of artists. Beginning with illustrator and painter Newell Convers “N.C.” Wyeth (1882–1945) in the late 1800s, the family has spawned four generations of reputable artists. The artistic bloodline has continued not only through N. C. Wyeth’s youngest and most famous son, the late Andrew, directly down to Andrew’s son Jamie, but also to Andrew’s sisters Carolyn and Henriette, their spouses and their offspring as well.

Wyeth Family Pumpkin Paintings

wyeth family pumpkin paintings
Patriarch N.C. Wyeth and family

This family has produced four generations of painters with a remarkable consistency of excellence. In addition to N. C. Wyeth’s most famous and eldest son Andrew (who died in 2009 at 91), N.C.’s eldest daughter Henriette Wyeth and her husband Peter Hurd were both students of N.C. Wyeth through the 1920s and continue to paint. They even have their own art gallery here.

All of N.C. Wyeth’s child-bearing children contributed to the painting tradition as it’s continued through the third generation artists, and onto the fourth, with the same commitment as those before them.

Later, young Andrew Wyeth and his sister Carolyn began their art training under their father, along with artist John W. McCoy, who married N.C. Wyeth’s third daughter, Ann. Andrew and Betsy’s son Jamie, whose own career includes working with Andy Warhol at The Factory in the seventies, is a contemporary artist still living and working in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania – at least part of the year.

NC Wyeth, his daughters Henriette and Carolyn, son Andrew and grandson Jamie- all in their respective art studios.

When we think of the Wyeths’ work, we think of  East Coast light houses, barns, farm animals, autumnal colors and bucolic scenes. All of the painting Wyeths have explored people and landscapes around Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania where N.C. Wyeth established the family’s home, and the mid-coast of Maine, where N.C. purchased a summer home. The family is also known for its love of Halloween and paintings of pumpkins.

Wyeth family dinner at Halloween, c. 1970., Photographer unknown.

For Andrew, it’s the haunting mood of the holiday that underlies much of his work: “There’s witchcraft and hidden meaning there. Halloween and all that is strangely tied into [my paintings],” he once said. “For me, the paintings have that eerie feeling of goblins and witches out riding on broomsticks—damp rotting leaves and moisture—smell of make-up—as a child, the smell inside of a pumpkin when a candle is lit—the feel of your face under a mask walking down a road in the moonlight. I love all that, because then I don’t exist anymore.” (source: Denver Art Museum)

Jamie Wyeth, in front of Point Lookout Farm, October 1997, ©Joyce Hill Stoner

Everybody in my family paints – excluding possibly the dogs,” says Jamie Wyeth. Halloween plays a big role. The holiday, says Jamie Wyeth, has “sort of been a big thing in our family. … We dress up all the time, anyway; but it’s kind of an excuse to do it not just among ourselves.” (via)

Andrew Wyeth’s Pumpkin Hill and son Jamie Wyeth’s Warm Halloween

Now for some examples of paintings of pumpkins from each:

N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), an illustrator and painter

N.C. Wyeth, Popular Magazine Cover Illustration, Farmer with Pumpkin, 1913, oil on canvas
N. C. Wyeth, illustration, Bringing Home The Pumpkins, 1907, Oil on canvas, 38 × 26 7/8 in. 

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009):

Andrew Wyeth, Pumpkins, watercolor on paper, 1969
Andrew Wyeth, Albinos Study, watercolor on paper, 2002, Private Collection
Andrew Wyeth Back Entry, 1971, watercolor 30 x 22in
Andrew Wyeth, Jack Be Nimble, watercolor on paper, 1979

Oftentimes people will like a picture I paint because it’s maybe the sun hitting on the side of a window and they can enjoy it purely for itself,” Andrew Wyeth once said. “It reminds them of some afternoon. But for me, behind that picture could be a night of moonlight when I’ve been in some house in Maine, a night of some terrible tension, or I had this strange mood. Maybe it was Halloween. It’s all there, hiding behind the realistic side.”

Andrew Wyeth, Sundown, 1969, watercolor on paper
21½ x 29¾ in.
Andrew Wyeth, Pumpkin in Doorway, 1979, watercolor and pencil on paper, 8 x 15 in.
Andrew Wyeth, Late Harvest, watercolor on board, 1973

Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946):

Jamie Wyeth, Pumpkin March, 1974, Watercolor on paper,32 1/2 x 40 1/2 in.
Jamie Wyeth, Pumpkins at Sea, 1971, oil on canvas, 22 x 40 in
Jamie Wyeth, Pumpkin and Shell, 1989, mixed media on paper, 21.5 x 30 in.
Jamie Wyeth, Why Vegan,
Jamie Wyeth, The Headlands of Monhegan Island, Maine, 2007, Oil on canvas, 40 x 60 in.
Jamie Wyeth, The Runners, 1984, mixed media on paper
Jamie Wyeth, Pumpkinhead (self portrait), 1972

Henriette Wyeth Hurd (1907-1997)

Henriette Wyeth, “Jamie’s Pumpkins,” 1968, oil on canvas, 30 1:2 x 24 1:2 inches, Museum of Texas Tech University
Henriette Wyeth, pumpkin and flower pot (available as a print here)
Henriette Wyeth, Santo Dove and Pumpkin

Carolyn Wyeth (1909-1994):

Carolyn Wyeth, Betsy’s pumpkin, 1935, Oil on canvas, 31 3/8 × 39 1/2 in.

Now, have you got your pumpkin for Halloween yet?

A big thank you to The Farnsworth Art Museum, The Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadd’s Ford Gallery, Jamie Wyeth, Andrew WyethWyeth Hurd and Hurd Gallery and the following links for all the wonderful photos and information.

• https://www.farnsworthmuseum.org/exhibition/the-wyeths-family-and-friends/
• https://www.nhpr.org/post/exhibit-illuminates-three-generations-wyeths#stream/0
• https://andrewwyeth.com/timeline/
• https://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/about/exhibitions-archive/exhibitions-archive-by-date/2010-the-wyeth-family/
• https://www.kiarts.org/page.php?page_id=279
• https://fineartconnoisseur.com/2017/12/magical-real-wyeth-hurd/
• https://www.tfaoi.com/newsmu/nmus82f.htm
• https://www.delawareonline.com/story/life/food/2017/10/18/chadds-ford-pumpkin-tradition-starts-thursday/775194001/

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