The founder of the Brandywine River Conservancy and Museum of Art, George Weymouth, died on Sunday. He was 79.
Weymouth, an heir to the du Pont fortune, was devoted to art and the Brandywine River Valley.
When Weymouth was just 3 years old, his brother nicknamed his “Frolic” after his lost dog. The name suited him for the next 76 years. He was an accomplished painter and impish personality. As a teenager, he befriended artist Andrew Wyeth, often visiting Wyeth’s studio in Chadds Ford.
“First time I met him, my aunt took me out there to have him look at a painting,” said Weymouth in a 2012 interview. “It was very embarrassing. I was about 14, 15 years old. He looked at the painting, and from then on we became close friends. We were the only realists at the time; it was nice to have a kindred spirit.”
In 1967, Weymouth bought 47 acres of land in the Brandywine Valley threatened with development. That was the start of his land conservancy, which has since preserved 62,000 acres in Delaware and Pennsylvania.
He also founded the Brandywine River Museum in an old gristmill on the riverbank that became a repository of work by Andrew Wyeth and the Wyeth family. Weymouth chaired the organization for 49 years with a sense of whimsy; he used to walk around with a plastic river rat pinned to his shoulder.
“When you asked what it was, he would to say, ‘This little river rat has cost people millions of dollars,'” said CEO Virginia Logan. “They’d ask him that question and the next thing you knew — through his storytelling — they were becoming one of our donors.”
“In fact, I think his sense of humor is one of the keys to his great success,” said Logan. “It was infectious. It caused people to enjoy working hard and generously supporting us and rallying around whatever it was he was trying to get us to do.”
Even during his final months, Weymouth was looking to the future. He took on a board co-chairman, Morris Stroud, to help strategize the growth of the organization.
“He did everything elegantly, including crafting the succession plan,” said Logan. “What Frolic has given us, as one more gift, is a seamless transition in the leadership of our board, and a really clear sense of direction of how we’re going to grow.”
The museum will display an exhibition of Weymouth’s paintings in tribute. That is a teaser for a much larger retrospective and catalogue of his work already in the works, curated by the Art Museum of Philadelphia’s Joseph Rishel, to be unveiled in 2018.