An Artist of the Brandywine Valley

After spending decades chasing clients in Our Nation’s Capital, my wife and I at last have narrowed our choices of a new place to call home and settled on the Brandywine Valley.

We’re both delighted. It’s inspiring to live here.

You’d have to look long and hard to find another spot in the US where there are more practicing visual artists than here (maybe Woodstock and Taos are the exceptions).

The surrounding countryside, moreover, is tidy and well preserved—thanks to the Duponts’ manipulation of the tax codes—and there are art museums and galleries everywhere.

We’re neighbors of Joe Biden (Go, Joe!), can shop at an old-fashioned meat store, and there’s even a brick-and-mortar Jerry’s Artarama. Oh, joy! Rapture! (Picasso once said, “When art critics get together they talk about form and structure and meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.”)

Andrew Wyeth’s studio

The Brandywine Valley became an artists’ mecca 200 years ago, when landscapes were every collector’s fav. The neighborhood’s bucolic character drew Philadelphia artists by the scores, and the nation’s very first lithographic print, House and Trees at Waterside, was based on a Brandywine Valley scene captured by the commercially minded Philadelphia painter Bass Otis.

Magazine illustrator Howard Pyle attracted hundreds more commercially minded artists to his studio here at the turn of the 19th century, unwittingly giving birth to a style that became known as the “Brandywine School.” His most accomplished students—some of whom settled permanently in the area—were Clifford Ashley, Anton Otto Fischer, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Jessie Willcox Smith, Frank Schoonover and N.C. Wyeth, the father of Andrew and grandfather of Jamie.

Horace Pippin, John Brown Going to His Hanging, 1942

The Brandywine School was followed in the middle of the 20th century by the nation’s original school of “outsider” artists, led by the self-taught Horace Pippin. If artists like the Wyeths are the straight cards in the deck, outsiders are the Jokers.

Walking in all these artists’ footsteps every day, seeing the sights they saw, drinking the water they drank, breathing the air they breathed—although it’s pretty pungent some days—is a heady experience.

I’m lovin’ it.

Note: I’m pleased to announce I have just been approved by the state for inclusion in the Delaware Artist Roster.