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Posts Tagged ‘alcott’

050616-NCWyeth-at-Concord-Museum

 

 

 

 

 

If you can get to the N.C. Wyeth exhibit at the Concord Museum by September 18, I think it will be worth your while.

You’re familiar with the family of painters, the Wyeths, right? Best known are Nathaniel C., his son Andrew, and Andrew’s son, Jamie. Perhaps you have been to the Brandywine Museum in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, which got its start with generations of Wyeth art.

N.C. fell in love with Henry D. Thoreau‘s writing in 1909, made several pilgrimages to Concord, and eventually conceived of a book that he would illustrate , calling it Men of Concord: And Some Others as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau.

The Concord Museum and the Concord Library are each hosting exhibits related to the book, but if you like N.C.’s art, the museum exhibit is the one to see. It’s small but informative and lovely to look at.

N.C. was known for heroic illustrations of classics like Treasure Island, and his characters’ facial expressions and body postures always tell a story. That might be too literal for some art lovers, but I like it. I like the looks on the faces of three men Thoreau described in his journal as “slimy.” I like the watchful, coiled bodies of the muskrat hunters on the river, and the youthful innocence of N.C.’s Thoreau — a quality I have never associated with the writer.

One fanciful painting with bluebirds in a bubble of light like angels over Thoreau’s head seems like hagiography. It’s not my favorite work here, but it’s an intriguing summary of the writer’s interests. And people do make a religion out of Thoreau and Transcendentalism, so maybe it’s not surprising. The whole Concord gang — including Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson — is in the show, minus most of the brilliant women, of course.

One thing I learned was that N.C. had his pencil sketches converted into glass slides, and then he projected them onto the Renaissance board he favored so he could work directly on the enlarged sketch.

More on the museum website.

The hut is a replica of the cabin Thoreau stayed in at Walden Pond and is located on the grounds of the museum.

050616-Thoreau-replica-cabin

050616-Wyeth-and-Thoreau-at-Library

 

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We had to cut down a sick sugar maple near our house. The arborist counted the rings: 170.

170 years ago Thoreau walked around this neighborhood. Maybe he walked under the tree’s branches. Maybe at this time of year, he kicked up its fallen leaves. The abolitionist John Brown visited a house on this street, too.

Come to think of it, 170 years ago was roughly the period that Concord’s “genius cluster” hung out together, as author Susan Cheever describes the Concord writers in her book American Bloomsbury.

Somehow looking at the rings on a tree that you more or less took for granted makes you think about historical characters that always seemed in the distant past. You imagine that you might have had a nodding acquaintance with Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and various Alcotts if they hadn’t unfortunately died a few years before you came to town.

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