This exhibition is the first public presentation of recently rediscovered drawings in which artist Andrew Wyeth (1917–2009) imagines his own funeral. The artworks, made in the early 1990s, portray Wyeth’s friends, neighbors, and wife, Betsy, surrounding a coffin at the base of Kuerner’s Hill in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, a site the artist long associated with death, including that of his father. Some of the drawings offer a view inside the coffin, revealing a rare self-portrait.
The exhibition connects the sketches now known as the Funeral Group to Wyeth’s decades-long engagement with death as an artistic subject in painting, his relationships with the models depicted, and his expressive and exploratory use of drawing. It also places his work in conversation with other artists’ self-portraiture and reflections on mortality. Works on view by Wyeth’s contemporaries Duane Michals, Andy Warhol, and George Tooker explore the nature of being by picturing the artists’ own passing, while artists of later generations such as David Wojnarowicz, Janaina Tschäpe, and Mario Moore investigate the universality of death as a social experience. Through such juxtapositions, Andrew Wyeth: Life and Death shows Wyeth deeply engaged in existential questions that have long preoccupied conceptual, performance, and activist artists.
Banner image: Andrew Wyeth, John Olson’s Funeral (detail), 1945. Watercolor on paper. © 2021 Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society (ARS). New Britain Museum of American Art, Charles F. Smith Fund, 1945.26
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Andrew Wyeth: Life and Death is curated by Tanya Sheehan, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art at Colby College. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.
Selections from the Funeral Group on view in Andrew Wyeth: Life and Death are on loan from the Jamie and Phyllis Wyeth Collection and the Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection.