November 28th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
My family and I kicked off the holidays in splendid style this past weekend with a visit to the Brandywine River Museum. I hadn’t been to the museum in a few years and was looking forward to getting into the spirit of the season, so I was excited to take in “A Brandywine Christmas.”
At the top of my son’s must-see list were the model trains. Head Engineer Dave Jensen, Curator Steven Clarke, and museum employees like Joe Bauer, who’s been donning his blue-and-white-striped engineer’s cap each year for over a decade, spend six days—even Thanksgiving Day—setting up the railroad for holiday visitors. Comprising 28 separate sections, more than 2000 feet of track, 150 locomotives (as many as 5 running at once), and 300 freight cars, this O-gauge masterpiece will delight kids and grown-ups alike.
Joe handed my son a list of things to find—including a lighthouse, a Christmas tree farm, a Renaissance fair, an oil well, a waterfall, the Herr’s Snack Factory, two lumberjacks, seven refinery workers, eight Santas, and more! Train buffs will appreciate that this year’s display, evocative of the 1950s (there’s even a drive-in movie theatre), includes rare Japanese model trains made by Sakai, Stronlite, Ajin, and IMP; youngsters will enjoy seeing their favorite “Thomas the Tank Engine” characters chugging around the tracks. It’s really a sight to behold!
After taking in the trains, we visited the museum’s other galleries. In addition to its impressive permanent collection of landscape and genre painting, still life and portraits, American illustration, and three generations of art by the Wyeth family, the museum is also showing two special exhibits through January 6, “Pop-Up! Illustration in 3-D” and “Golden Impressions of Andrew Wyeth by Donald Pywell.”
“Pop-Up!” features the work of paper engineers who create art for pop-up books; from the whimsical ABC Dinosaurs to the stunning Beauty and the Beast, pieces from the late nineteenth century to the present bring to the fore an art form that would perhaps otherwise go unappreciated. “Golden Impressions,” an exhibit of jewelry by local goldsmith Donald Pywell inspired by paintings by Andrew Wyeth, is similarly impressive. Necklaces, earrings, brooches, and bracelets, hand crafted over three decades by Pywell as gifts for Wyeth’s wife Betsy, are shown in displays designed by Chadds Ford artist Mark Cole that are themselves works of art.
In addition to the exhibits, the museum will be presenting its much-anticipated Annual Critter Sale on December 1 and 2, featuring hand-crafted “critter” ornaments made by museum volunteers; the sale will take place in the museum’s lecture room (admission is free). Also on December 1, from 10am to noon, author Paige Singer and illustrator Rob Dionne will be at the museum signing copies of their newly published children’s book, Teasel and Twigs: ‘Tis a Christmas Critter Tale. Proceeds from both events will benefit the Museum Volunteers’ Art Purchase Fund.
On our way out of the museum, we perused the artisans’ booths in the outdoor courtyard. Quilts, jewelry, wooden bowls and ornaments, calligraphy, and other wares—all locally made—are available for purchase each weekend. The museum’s indoor gift shop, featuring a wonderful assortment of items (including some of those phenomenal pop-up books), is open during regular museum hours. After a brisk but beautiful stroll on the museum’s grounds along the Brandywine, my family and I returned home to a treat of hot tea sweetened by the local Swarmbustin’ Honey we purchased in the courtyard, marveling at how the museum truly has something for everyone to enjoy.
“A Brandywine Christmas” will be on display at the Brandywine River Museum, located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, through January 6. The museum is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9:30am to 4:30pm. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 65 and over, $6 for students and children ages 6–12, and free for children under 6 and Brandywine Conservancy members. To find out more about the benefits of membership, visit the museum website!