Lot 6
  • 6

ANDREW WYETH, French Connection

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • watercolor on paper


Whistler's Daughter Art Gallery, Basking Ridge, New Jersey, 1981
Sale: Skinner, Boston, Massachusetts, November 19, 1987, lot 196, illustrated
Private Collection, Edgemont, Pennsylvania (acquired at the above sale)
Private Collection, Shibuya Tokyo, Japan, 1989
Private Collection, Tampa, Florida, 1991
Frank Fowler, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
Acquired by the present owners, 1996


Morristown, New Jersey, The Peck School, Three Generations of Wyeths, May 1983
Bologna, Italy, Gallerie Forni, Andrew Wyeth, March-April 1992, no. 12, illustrated in color p. 31
Nagoya, Japan, Aichi Prefectural Museum; Tokyo, Japan, Bunkamura Museum of Art; Fukushima, Japan, Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art; Kansas City, Missouri, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Andrew Wyeth Retrospective, February-November 1995
Charlotte, North Carolina, Jerald Melberg Gallery, Andrew Wyeth: Watercolors, October-November 2004


The Magazine Antiques, November 1987, illustrated in color p. 944
Andrew Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth-Autobiography, Boston, Massachusetts, 1995, p. 122, illustrated in color
Anne Classen Knutson, Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, New York, 2005, pp. 71-72, illustrated in color fig. 62

Catalogue Note

A pencil study of Helga for Lovers is on the reverse.

French Connection, painted in Andrew Wyeth’s father N.C.’s studio in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, depicts one of the costumes N.C. maintained as a prop for his illustrations.  Andrew Wyeth mused to Thomas Hoving about this watercolor,  “The costume -an authentic one- was owned by an aide to Napoleon III.  The uniform reminded me of the Marquis de Lafayette.  You know, he had soil from the Brandywine Valley put in his coffin in France.  Notice up on the right side of an American sloop of war.  The painting is all about my strong feelings for the American Revolutionary War, the aura of which surrounds one here and which I feel from my constant wandering around these hills in the Brandywine Valley.”


Wyeth had inherited N.C.’s fascination with story characters and costumes, which had been instilled in the elder Wyeth by his teacher Howard Pyle.  Pyle had a lifelong interest in the theater and both he and N.C. maintained collections of historical costumes that they used in their illustrations of such stories as The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and The Last of the Mohicans.  The woods surrounding the Wyeth home in Chadds Ford became Andrew’s private Sherwood Forest where he and his siblings would reenact storybook adventures dressed in costumes from the chests in their father’s studio.  Yet Wyeth’s own interest in costumes later transcended his father’s deft use of the garments as fantastic, illustrative props.   These ornate costumes developed into subjects in and of themselves. 


Anne Classen Knutson writes, “Wyeth delights in the craftsmanship of antique garments…He gives life to these finely wrought vestments, symbolically reviving the dead as he carefully constructs the coats in paint.  In French Connection, an antique style jacket hangs on a doorjamb, mimicking a standing figure.  The jacket, which flares at the waist as if stretched out by an abundant stomach, reminded Wyeth of the Marquis de Lafayette…Thus the vintage costumes in his paintings may vivify memories of the people, events, and places that the clothes once served.  That many were owned by N.C Wyeth and his teacher Howard Pyle gives Wyeth a further material connection to his own past.  The entombing atmosphere of the paintings [the present work and The Quaker (1975, sold: Sotheby’s New York, November 2000, Private Collection)] contains memories of war and of his father, while the thresholds provide an escape and a reminder of how easily memories slip away” (Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, p. 72).