St. Petersburg, Fla.–The encounter between Jamie Wyeth (born 1946), one of America’s most gifted artists and portrait painters, and dance icon Rudolf Nureyev was destined to produce fascinating, revealing works. This exhibition features 19 stellar examples, along with three sketchbooks, five costumes, and even a pair of Nureyev’s Capezio ballet slippers. Three paintings are large-scale.
Jamie Wyeth’s Portraits of Rudolf Nureyev: Images of the Dancer from the Brandywine River Museum of Art opens Saturday, October 11, 2014 and continues through Sunday, January 18, 2015. The exhibition is sponsored in part by Franklin Templeton. The Margaret Acheson Stuart Society provides major support for MFA exhibitions and educational programs. Bill Edwards Presents, Inc. is the Exhibition Title Sponsor 2014, and the Tampa Bay Times is the Media Sponsor.
Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin, a specialist in American art, has selected the works in close consultation with the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The Brandywine has one of the most important collections of art by members of the Wyeth family.
On Sunday, October 12, at 3 p.m. Dr. Amanda C. Burdan, Associate Curator at the Brandywine, will present a Collectors Circle Lecture, “Wyeth and Nureyev, a Grande Révérence,” which is free and open to the public with MFA admission.” Northern Trust is the sponsor. In his portraits of Nureyev, Jamie Wyeth created a painted version of a ballet révérence, the sequence of steps performed at the end of every class to demonstrate the dancers’ esteem for their instructor. Dr. Burdan will look at Jamie Wyeth’s methods and interpretive choices as he attempted to capture the essence of Nureyev and his artistry.
The exhibition opening will also coincide with the Florida premiere of David Rush’s play, Nureyev’s Eyes, at American Stage Theatre Company. The award-winning playwright imagines what the encounters and conversations may have been like between Jamie Wyeth and Rudolf Nureyev. Mr. Rush conducted extensive research in writing his play and studied Mr. Wyeth’s work at the Brandywine. The limited two-week run is set for Wednesday, October 15, through Sunday, October 26. For tickets, please visit www.americanstage.org. The production and the exhibition are sponsored in part by Sylvia P. Rusché Insurance Agency, Inc. with State Farm.
As a preview to the exhibition and the play, Dr. Hardin and Professor Emerita Dedee Aleccia will present an American Stage LEARN Lecture at the MFA on Sunday, October 5, at 1 p.m. LEARN events are $7 for American Stage subscribers and MFA members and $10 for the general public. Please reserve tickets by calling American Stage at 727.823.7529.
James Browning (Jamie) Wyeth is the son of Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C. Wyeth. Other relatives are also talented artists. In fact, Jamie Wyeth left public school after the sixth grade to study art in a rigorous way with his Aunt Carolyn, as well as other subjects with private tutors. His father would also critique his work. Later, Andrew would seek Jamie’s reaction to his own paintings. Unlike his father who preferred egg tempera and watercolor, Jamie has always loved the “juiciness” of oil.
By the time he was 18, Jamie Wyeth was represented in noted public and private collections. He met Nureyev in 1974 through Renaissance man Lincoln Kirstein, co-founder of the New York City Ballet whose portrait he painted. He praised the then teenager as “the finest American portrait painter since the death of John Singer Sargent.”
As a young man in New York, Jamie studied anatomy in the Harlem Hospital morgue and also frequented Andy Warhol’s Factory. The two artists painted portraits of each other, which were shown in a 1976 exhibition at the Coe-Kerr Gallery. Among his many other telling portraits are those of Presidents John F. Kennedy (commissioned by family members after his death) and Jimmy Carter, his wife Phyllis and father Andrew, people in Chadds Ford, even family dogs and livestock. At 20, he had an impressive solo exhibition at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is currently presenting a retrospective of more than 100 works, which is attracting large crowds and was featured in the August issue of Vanity Fair.
Jamie Wyeth completed his Nureyev portraits, including posthumous works, between 1977 and 2001. He did not set out to capture Nureyev performing. In fact, most of the portraits capture the artist at a still point, though still radiating extraordinary energy and concentration. Paintings like Nureyev—Don Quixote—White Background, Mort de Noureev, and Curtain Call, all completed in 2001 after the dancer’s death, are particularly poignant.
In a 2002 New York Times interview with Mel Gussow, Wyeth called Nureyev “a phantom figure.” He followed the dancer around, attending rehearsals, watching him putting on his makeup, sketching from the wings. Even though the process was intense, the two became friends.
Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993) trained and danced with the Soviet Union’s famed Kirov Ballet, like another legend, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and though watched by KGB agents, made the leap to freedom in 1961 in Paris. The defection was “front page” news internationally.
Nureyev brought daring athleticism to his roles and turned attention to the male dancer. His partnership with Margot Fonteyn of The Royal Ballet garnered sellout crowds, rave reviews, and standing ovations. In 1964, they received 89 curtain calls at the end of Swan Lake in Vienna.
Nureyev’s “movie star” good looks and charisma also propelled his popularity. He was instrumental in fueling the dance boom of the 1970s and 1980s and crossed over into pop culture. He even sang a duet with Miss Piggy on The Muppet Show. He was also one of the first ballet stars to work with modern choreographers like Martha Graham and Paul Taylor, directed some of the best ballet films ever, and later in his career, would revive the Paris Opera Ballet as its director.
Jamie Wyeth’s Portraits of Rudolf Nureyev features both the study for and the Don Quixote Poster (1977/2003) and an ethereal painting of the dancer against a white background (2001) in a ballet which loomed large in his career. He produced the first full-length version of Don Quixote in the West. His gorgeous tunic for the ballet is also included in the MFA exhibition, which is full of wonderful surprises like this. To see Rudolf Nureyev through the eyes of Jamie Wyeth is a rare privilege.
ABOUT THE CATALOGUE
All of the works and costumes in the exhibition are reproduced in this handsome catalogue published by the MFA and available in the Museum Store.Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin has written the introduction and Director Kent Lydecker, the foreword. The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine has graciously allowed the MFA to reprint tributes by dancer Lynn Seymour and the late dance critic Clive Barnes, author of a 1982 Nureyev biography, as well as an essay by art historian and Wyeth scholar Lauren Raye Smith. All appeared in the catalogue for the exhibition organized by the Farnsworth, Capturing Nureyev: James Wyeth Paints the Dancer (2002-2003). The Farnsworth and the Brandywine have the country’s most significant collections of works by members of the Wyeth family.
For the latest information on programs, please visit www.fine-arts.org.
Friends of Photography: Informal Talk by Photographer Tom Kramer on “Dance Photography: Whose Work Is It Anyway?” on Thursday, October 30, at 6 p.m. in the MFA’s Bayview Room. Free for Friends of Photography members, $10 for nonmembers. Light refreshments. RSVP: Robin O’Dell, firstname.lastname@example.org or 727.896.2667, ext. 289.
Tom Kramer has photographed for the Detroit Dance Collective, Michigan Dance Association, the USF Dance Department, Cleveland Opera, FreeFall Theater, and numerous other performing arts institutions. His photographs are in the MFA collection and will be featured in December at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, St. Petersburg College. In his talk, Mr. Kramer will focus on the collaborative aspect of dance photography, share personal anecdotes, and offer examples of his work.
Lecture by Gretchen Ward Warren on “The Lasting Impact of Rudolf Nureyev, Ballet’s First Superstar,” Thursday, November 6, 6:30 p.m. Free with MFA admission, only $5 after 5 p.m. on Thursdays.
For 27 years, Ms. Warren was a faculty member at the University of South Florida and was named Professor Emerita upon her retirement in 2009. Previously, she was a soloist with the Pennsylvania Ballet (1965-76) and Ballet Mistress of American Ballet Theatre II in New York (1978-83). In addition to her work as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer, she has designed costumes for ABT, Pennsylvania Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, and the Miami City Ballet.
Ms. Warren has written for Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Now, Dance View, and Pointe magazine. Internationally known as a master teacher, she is the author of two bestselling books: Classical Ballet Technique and The Art of Teaching Ballet: Ten 20th Century Masters. In 2010, she received two Lifetime Achievement Awards, one from the Florida Dance Association and the other from CORPS de Ballet International.
Monday Art Bite, November 10, 1 p.m.: Choreographer Paula Kramer will focus on the connection between the visual and performing arts in this half-hour talk. She is the founding artistic director of Detroit Dance Collective (DDC), which has toured nationally and for which she has choreographed more than 40 works. She is currently a teaching artist for VSA Arts and a Creative Care Artist for the Arts in Healthcare program at Creative Clay. Free with MFA admission.
Galley Talk on the exhibition by Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin,
Sunday, November 30, 3 p.m. Free with MFA admission.
Dr. Hardin will discuss these portraits in the larger context of Jamie Wyeth’s oeuvre, his approach to realism, and the contributions of the Wyeth family to American art.
Collectors Circle Lecture by Dr. Eric Segal, on “Illustrating Anxiety: American Illustrators and their Artistic Identities,” Thursday, December 4, 6:30 p.m. Open to the Public and Free with MFA admission, only $5 after 5 p.m. on Thursdays. Sponsored by Northern Trust.
Dr. Segal, Education Curator of Academic Programs at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, will include a discussion of the work of N.C. Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth’s noted grandfather, in his lecture. Prior to joining the Harn staff, he was Assistant Professor of Art History, also at the University of Florida. He is putting the finishing touches on his first book, Illustrating Whiteness: J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, and The Saturday Evening Post, which will be published by the University of California Press.
UNCHartED Random Act of Culture, Dance! And the Visual Arts, Thursday, December 18, 6:30 p.m. Free with MFA admission, only $5 after 5 p.m.
This lively panel includes: Michael Foley, Associate Professor of Dance and Director of the Dance in Paris Program at the University of South Florida, Tampa; Dr. Ying Zhu, Assistant Professor of Dance at USF; professional dancer Helen Hansen French; and Christina Acosta, Dance Instructor at Hillsborough Community College.
ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
The MFA is located on the spectacular downtown waterfront at 255 Beach Drive N.E. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, until 8 p.m. on Thursday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is only “5 after 5” on Thursday. Regular admission is $17 for adults, $15 for those 65 and older, and $10 for students seven and older, including college students with current I.D. Children under seven and Museum members are admitted free. Groups of 10 or more adults pay only $12 per person and children $4 each with prior reservations. For more information, please call 727.896.2667 or visit www.fine-arts.org.