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Wyeth Wonderland: Joséphine Douet envisions Andrew Wyeth's world
Joséphine Douet, Rubber Ivy, 2015. Giclée print on Hahnemulle Photorag paper, 320 gr. 18 ½ x 28 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

YONKERS, NY.- In the countryside of Pennsylvania, French photographer Joséphine Douet followed the path first set by Andrew Wyeth — an elegant, spare, and honest view of the landscape and the people of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the iconic American painter’s home.

Wyeth Wonderland: Joséphine Douet Envisions Andrew Wyeth’s World is an exhibition of 27 photographs Douet took in this rural region made famous by Wyeth together with a selection of Wyeth watercolors. Joséphine Douet’s photographs are being shown for the first time in the United States at the Hudson River Museum, and, also for the first time, the Museum explores Andrew Wyeth’s watercolors. Among them are scenes of farms set in low hills, the faces of working men and profiles of young women, the architecture of roofs, doorways and windows, and the animals who inhabit the landscape. Douet said, “My decision to follow in Wyeth’s footsteps and to photograph what he painted and his relationship with his home arose from a combination of my admiration for him and my love for artistic challenge.”

Seeking insight into Wyeth’s art, Douet visited Kuerner Farm, which appears often in Wyeth’s paintings, calling it, “a land of never ending poetry . . . every tube, tire, bucket, and hose has an organic structure that just fits to the place.” Her photograph Rubber Ivy (2015) is one of several of the Kuerner Farm.

Foremost in the exhibition Helga, Wyeth’s model and muse and neighbor who posed for him for 15 years, appears in Douet’s photograph Helga (2015), and in six Wyeth watercolors, which show a younger Helga, among them Study for On her Knees, In the Orchard, and In the Doorway. In 1986, news of a cache of Wyeth’s paintings and drawings of Helga was published and caused a sensation in the art world.

Douet undertook her five-week photography project in Chadds Ford as a commission from the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, in Madrid, Spain which, in 2016, organized a retrospective of the work of Andrew Wyeth and his son, Jamie. With an interest in Wyeth that dates from her childhood, she was eager to travel across the Atlantic and immerse herself in the environment Wyeth painted. She wanted to find what the camera could reveal about both Wyeth and the world to which he devoted his art. What she got was insight into Wyeth’s sense of light and space, and the recognition of his tribute to the timelessness embodied in our awareness of the places and objects that surround us. Douet said, “What makes a hill or a rock a special spot? Memories. And memories are born from building and intimacy, day after day.” Then, too, as Douet’s project progressed, she saw that her own photographs developed a new delicacy of touch.

Andrew Wyeth was born in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania in 1917, the place where he lived his life of 91 years. He learned, there, the techniques of painting from his illustrator father and teacher, N.C. Wyeth. Andrew Wyeth said, “Art to me is seeing. I think you have got to use your eyes, as well as your emotion, and one without the other just doesn't work. That's my art.”

“It is with great pride that the Museum has the opportunity to share this creative exploration by a contemporary international photographer on the intimate world and subjects of American realist Andrew Wyeth. Douet captures the mystery and essence of Wyeth’s work, while creating her own nuanced understanding of the landscape and inhabitants,” states Masha Turchinsky, Director of the Hudson River Museum.

Laura Vookles, Chair of the Museum’s Curatorial department, said, “Douet’s co-existence with Wyeth at Chadds Ford brings new perspectives on an artist long beloved by the American public and, in the past several years, a subject of renewed study and appreciation by curators. Andrew Wyeth has fascinated me since my earliest days in museums, and Wyeth Wonderland touches upon that sense of place and love of landscape, which the Hudson River Museum makes a primary focus of its painting and photography exhibitions.”

Joséphine Douet’s pictures range from documentaries to conceptual photography. Based in France and Spain, she photographed Parisian fashion for the series Coutures and Spanish bullfighting for her trilogy Peajes, Alma Herida, and Silencios. Her photographs have been published in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Elle, Esquire, GQ, Liberation, El Pais, Paris Match, Harper’s Bazaar, and have been shown in the AIPAD photography show, PhotoEspaña, and Spanish and French galleries. She turned, though, from hard driving sport and fashion to a more peaceful and contemplative canvas, an immersion into Wyeth’s world that she perfectly realizes in her photograph Young Calf (2015). “I was there in mud up to my knees. I had to find a perfect calf. And it’s such a perfect calf. It’s really just newborn. And I loved the colors, the windows, which are so Wyeth-ish. There were more calves, but I really had to find the one that would have a sense of fragility and a lot of determination in the look.”

Andrew Wyeth watercolors are on loan from Adelson Galleries and Frank E. Fowler.

The exhibition, Wyeth Wonderland: Joséphine Douet Envisions Andrew Wyeth’s World, is organized by the Hudson River Museum, which has published a catalog of the exhibition with the same name.

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