Masterworks secures Wyeth painting
In a “major, major coup for the Island”, Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art has acquired a rare Bermuda painting by one of the top US painters of the 20th century.
“Royal Palms”, a piece by Andrew Wyeth believed to carry a six-figure value, is one of just three works by the painter known to exist from his 1953 visit to the Bermuda. The coveted artwork has been purchased by a local benefactor, and will appear on the gallery’s walls next year.
Masterworks curator Elise Outerbridge likened the prize, which depicts Shinbone Alley in St George’s, to the Holy Grail of artwork created in Bermuda.
“We thought this was absolutely, never going to happen; never in our wildest dreams — to have our hands on a painting that inspired Masterworks to be created, I’m at a loss for words,” she said.
The painting drew visitors and locals in droves when it was brought to the Island on loan in 1986 for Heritage Month. Ms Outerbridge called the response “a significant catalyst in the formation of Masterworks”.
Long held in the collection of a family on the US East Coast, “Royal Palms” has been secured for the Island by an anonymous Bermudian, and arrived here yesterday.
It joins “Homer, O’Keeffe, Moore, Gleizes and a host of other household names in the Masterworks collection”, Ms Outerbridge said.
“The circle is now complete, and Bermuda really can boast an international collection worthy of any metropolis of any size.
“The fact that we are only 60,000 strong is a testament to local support.”
Equally overjoyed was museum founder Tom Butterfield, who told The Royal Gazette: “I am more than ecstatic — I am in tears of absolute joy. It really is the foundation on which the notion of Masterworks began.”
Added Mr Butterfield: “It’s not priceless in terms of monetary value. But in terms of uniqueness, it is.
“Of the three Bermuda Andrew Wyeths, two are in major museums. When this one went from a grandmother to her grandson, I was able to keep my interests known through a friend in New York. Eventually he said he’d be willing to part with it.
“It is huge for Bermuda and completes our circle of A-rung artists. I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime. After 28 years, it’s come home.”
Appropriately, the piece gives another view of Shinbone Alley from that of another Masterworks gem by Ogden Pleissner.
Other museums housing Wyeth’s work include the New York Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Wyeth, who died in 2009 at the age of 91, is famed for the masterpiece “Christina’s World”, depicting a crippled young neighbour lying in a field, as well as a controversial series of portraits that came to be known as the Helga Pictures.
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