N.C. Wyeth illustration rediscovered

    A 1919 illustration originally published in Everybody’s Magazine is being seen in a new light today after some high tech investigative work.

    A 1919 illustration originally published in Everybody’s Magazine is being seen in a new light today after some high tech investigative work. “We’re sort of detectives in our work here,” says Jennifer Mass, senior scientist at Delaware’s Winterthur Museum.

    While the hidden illustration was discovered underneath Wyeth’s oil painting “Family Portrait” in 1997, the x-ray used at that time only showed the art in black and white. Using a more intense X-ray at Cornell University, Mass and her coworkers were able to identify the colors of the illustration that were covered by the oil painting in 1924. “There had been a lot of theories about what this painting looked like, in fact, lots of people had thought that perhaps it was actually painted in shades of gray, or black and white.” What the X-ray technology actually found “was more of a muted, sort of pastel image that none of us were really quite anticipating.”

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    Wyeth was one of a number of artists who commonly painted over top of previous works.  He would frequently turn his original paintings upside down, and use the abstract shapes to inspire new works.  Mass says officials at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa., where “Family Portrait” is currently being held , estimate that “between 30 and 40 of their paintings have other paintings underneath, so that’s certainly job security for us.”  She says it’s believed that about 20% of all paintings have other works hiding underneath.

    Click on image to view a slideshow.
    Click on image to view a slideshow.

     

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