Peter Hurd

The Wyeths’ whys and why nots

The Portland Art Museum's look at three generations of the famous family's work isn't everything it might be. But what it is reveals a lot.

After spending some quality time with the animals in the print show Kingdom Animalia: Animals in Print from Dürer to Picasso one day last week, I moved up to the second floor of the Portland Art Museum’s main Belluschi building to take another look at The Wyeths: Three Generations, a traveling show that continues through Jan. 8. When I first saw it shortly after it opened in early October the special exhibition galleries were packed with visitors young and old, most seeming genuinely interested in the works of father N.C., son Andrew, and grandson Jamie. On a lazy Wednesday afternoon last week the crowd was much thinner, though still steady. But if the thrill wasn’t exactly gone, it had hit a lull.

Andrew Wyeth, “Morning at Kuerners,” n.d., watercolor, Collection of Melvin “Pete” Mark and Mary Kridel Mark. T2017.84.7. Oregon ArtsWatch photo

The Wyeths, which is from the Bank of America collection and came into being largely because this year is the centenary of Andrew Wyeth’s birth, is a curious show, genuinely interesting but in a much smaller way than the shouting makes it out to be. The works by Andrew are both the strongest and weakest part of the exhibit – strongest because he’s much the best artist of the three; weakest because he’s underrepresented, and his best work isn’t here. (A much deeper traveling show focusing on him alone, Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, is at the Seattle Art Museum through Jan. 15.)

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