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Jamie Wyeth: Works from Kingdom Hospital


A selection of drawings and mixed media paintings by artist Jamie Wyeth created especially for the ABC-TV dramatic series "Kingdom Hospital," executive produced by the celebrated master of horror and National Book Award recipient Stephen King, is currently on display at the Farnsworth Art Museum. "Jamie Wyeth: Works from Kingdom Hospital" will be on view in the Cowan Gallery of the museum's Wyeth Center through October 2004. Wyeth's work is pivotal to one of the storylines and introduces the audience to a central character in a surprising way.

The exhibition of 31 drawings and paintings was organized by Adelson Galleries in New York City, where it showed during the airing of the series earlier this spring. Warren Adelson, long-time friend of Wyeth and president of Adelson Gallery, is credited for suggesting Jamie Wyeth to the other executive produce of "Kingdom Hospital," Mark Carliner. During a casual dinner with Adelman in New York in 2003, Carliner described the plot of the series, which is based on the Lars von Trier Danish mini-series "The Kingdom," and which King, the literary giant of suspense, adapted and reworked for American television. The show centered on the seemingly miraculous recovery of an artist who is a victim of gruesome accident and requires an extended hospitalization; it draws heavily from King's own personal, near-death experience in 1999 when he was nearly killed by an out-of-control minivan while walking near his home in Maine.

After hearing more details about the character, Adelson suggested that rather than have the series' production company hire a commercial artist to create the artwork, it would be more meaningful to have a well-know artist create real drawings and paintings. "The first and most obvious choice to me was Jamie Wyeth, who has a deep feeling towards Maine, where he lives a good part of the year," said Adelson. "Moreover, Wyeth's figurative work reflects much of the sense of isolation and, to some extent, the insularity of Maine. I thought he would be a perfect interpreter for the story's protagonist." Carliner, who knew Wyeth's work, loved the idea and contacted King. "Wyeth's visual imagery on canvas  the vivid contrasts, dark edges and subterranean life  reflects the literary imagery in King's oeuvre, making for a perfect collaboration. It's not unexpected that the influence of Maine informs both artists' works and that the prospect of working together was appealing," he said.

When Adelson called Wyeth regarding the proposed collaboration, Wyeth was fascinated by the concept. After reading the scripts for the first two episodes, Wyeth joined the project with great enthusiasm and created two mixed-media paintings of a mysterious character  the likes of which has never before been seen on television  and a few dozen pencil drawings that relate to people and places in the story.

James (Jamie) Browning Wyeth, born July 6, 1946, has attracted considerable attention since adolescence as a third-generation American artist: son of Andrew Wyeth, among the country's most popular artists, and grandson of Newell Convers Wyeth, famous for his distinctive illustrations for the classic novels by Stevenson, Cooper and Scott. Born in Wilmington, Delaware, just south of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he grew up and still lives part of each year, Wyeth left public school after the sixth grade to be home-tutored so he could devote more time to art; he spent at least eight hours a day studying, sketching and painting. By age 18, young Wyeth's paintings hung in the permanent collections of the Wilmington Society of Art in Wilmington, Delaware, and in the Farnsworth Art Museum, as well as in several private collections.

A sensitive observer of his rural surroundings, Wyeth began painting livestock and other animals with the same care and intensity that he devoted to portraits of people. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he received commissions to paint portraits of Delaware Governor Charles L. Terry and a posthumous portrait of President John F. Kennedy. Wyeth's painting was also gaining acclaim at that time through an exhibition of his work along with his father's and grandfather's at the newly opened Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford. Since then, Wyeth has had several one-man exhibitions, including those at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia (1980), Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth (1981), Anchorage Fine Arts Museum (1983), Portland Museum of Art (1984), and Decatur House in Washington, DC (1995). His works are also included in many public collections, including those of the Terra Museum of American Art in Chicago; The National Gallery of art and The National Portrait Gallery, both in Washington, DC; John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington; Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford; and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine.

Wyeth is a participating lender for the United States Department of State, Art in Embassies Program. He holds honorary degrees from Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania (1975); Dickinson School of Law, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania (1983); Pine Manor College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts (1987); University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont (1988), and Westbrook College, Portland, Maine (1993).

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