I had the opportunity this fall to take advantage of a one of the Plein Air Painting Days sponsored by the Brandywine River Museum, that gives artists the opportunity to paint at Kuerner Farm in Chadds Ford, PA.
The farm is famous as the location for many of Andrew Wyeth’s most recognizable works, and is now part of the Brandywine Conservancy. It’s also simply a beautiful place to paint, with or without the connection to Wyeth.
While there, I happened to meet Karl J. Kuerner, an artist who works in the Brandywine tradition, and with whose work I was only passingly familiar. I had seen a few pieces online on a gallery’s website, but not his own site.
Karl introduced himself, commented on my painting and then was nice enough to show me a book of some of his work, which I liked very much.
Kuerner is the grandson of the Kuerners who lived on the farm when young Andrew Wyeth started visiting and painting there, a practice Wyeth continued for most of his career.
Though the farm is now part of the Brandywine Conservancy, Kuener still visits regularly to tend to the goats, rescue animals that now live on the farm.
Karl J Kuerner grew up with an interest in art that was encouraged by Carolyn Wyeth, Andrew’s sister and an artist in her own right, and was later mentored by Andrew Wyeth for over 30 years.
Though the influence of his teacher and mentor is evident in his approach, and he has access to much of the same subject matter, Kuerner has taken his own approach, expanding the range of what is generally known as the Brandywine tradition, a style of painting that stems from the great American illustrator Howard Pyle, through his students, including N.C. Wyeth, and passing down to Andrew and those influenced by him.
Part of the Brandywine tradition stems from the beauty of the area itself, which I took for granted when I was younger; but having traveled over the years, I still believe it’s one of the most beautiful areas in the country. The bucolic rolling hills of the Appalachian piedmont that cuts diagonally through eastern Pennsylvania seem particularly charming in the Brandywine Valley. It’s not surprising that the area has inspired generations of artists.
Kuerner has responded to the landscape with an approach that is perhaps more direct than that of his mentor, with brighter colors and an eye to strong compositional geometry — though still including an emphasis on the rich textures of trees, fields and the walls of farm buildings.
He also paints playful interpretations of animal subjects, seascapes, still life and some narrative compositions that have a feeling of illustrations for untold stories.
In addition to the images on Kuerner’s website, there is a collection of his work, All in a Day’s Work: from Heritage to Artist, available from Cedartree Books.
Also published by Cedartree are Kuerner’s children’s books, featuring a black cat: Ike at Night, Ike at Sea and Ike Takes Flight.
Kuerner sometimes conducts classes at the farm, organized through the Brandywine River Museum.
Karl J Kuerner’s work will be on display at Mala Galleria in Kennet Square, PA, in a group show, “Our Brandywine Tradition” that opens this Friday, December 1st (opening 6:00 – 9:00 PM), and runs to December 28, 2017.