Artists of Wyeth Country by W. Barksdale Maynard

Book Review presents reviews of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects by noted scholars, historians and journalists.

Artists of Wyeth Country
Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, and Andrew Wyeth
by W. Barksdale Maynard
Temple University Press, 237 pp., paperback $23

Few artists are so intimately associated with a regional landscape as the painters of the Brandywine area, popularly known as “Wyeth Country.” Rooted in exacting draftsmanship and rich visual storytelling, this artistic tradition was founded by illustrator Howard Pyle in the late 19th century and carried across the generations by N.C. and Andrew Wyeth. Though these artists have had no shortage of previous chroniclers the historical guidebook Artists of Wyeth Country offers admirers of the Brandywine tradition a novel opportunity to follow in their footsteps.

Author W. Barksdale Maynard provides six in-depth walking and driving tours that chart the architectural and natural landmarks that inspired their best-known paintings. Exploring these locales is not merely an act of tourism but also a source of insight into creative method. Daily meditative nature walks were essential to Pyle and the Wyeths’ artistic practice, allowing them to gather visual observations that fueled later studio work. By tracing the paths set out in the book, the reader can compare real sites with their painted counterparts and observe how the Brandywine landscape has changed in the century and a quarter since Pyle first brought his students there from nearby Philadelphia.

The book is generously illustrated with maps, historical photographs and aerial views to aid in this journey; however, it includes few reproductions of paintings by the artists discussed. For intrepid readers this can enhance the interactive quality of the guidebook because the author takes care to reference artworks that can be easily found elsewhere, but it means the book may function best for those with existing familiarity of the artists and their work. Regardless, Artists of Wyeth Country extends an engaging invitation to revisit the Brandywine region through the eyes of painters who shaped its enduring image in American art.

Erin Pauwels
Temple University