Projects & Writing Excerpts

Writing About Wyeth


Composer-pianist Catherine Marie Charlton  Releases Her Most Imaginative Album To Date

Pictured here with the listening "station" at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Charlton worked with Catherine Quillman to write the liner notes for her 80-page illustrated album "booklet."   Her 12th album in a 20 + year career,  I Dream About This World was inspired by Andrew Wyeth, his creative spirit and the artistic legacy of his family. 

It all began with a visit to Wyeth’s childhood home, now open to the public in Chadds Ford, Pa and not far from the pianist’s own  home in the scenic Brandywine Valley. 

The album’s release date, in July, 2017,  follows a debut concert on June 29th at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa., where a  retrospective celebrating the 100th anniversary of  Andrew Wyeth’s birth  opens June 24th, 2017. 

The late Andrew Wyeth  first captured the public's imagination as the painter of the lone, crawling figure in the 1964 painting, Christina's World.  Painted in an ancient technique known as egg tempera, the work introduced Wyeth’s exacting brushwork and his softly layered painting style. 

Composer-pianist Catherine Marie Charlton has developed her own meticulous method of production over the course  of  a 20 plus year career,  but nothing consumed her creative energies as did her latest album  - I Dream About This World -  which takes its title from Wyeth’s expressed desire to delve deep and to live in the world of imagination and art.  

The late Andrew Wyeth, who died in 2009, inspired plenty of writers, poets, and painters during his lifetime, but I Dream About This World  is  the first professionally produced album that has its origins not only in Wyeth’s  artistic process but an  artistic heritage known at the Brandywine Tradition.  

 It includes 19th-century practitioners as well as Wyeth’s son Jamie Wyeth and the family patriarch NC Wyeth, an artist and illustrator who  embodied the idea of how a productive and creative life can be deeply rooted in one’s home life.  As the mother of two young children, Charlton says she admires the way   Andrew Wyeth and his four siblings were  nurtured by parents who, in her words,  “shared a love of classical music, literature, art, and nature almost on a daily basis.”

I Dream About This World includes a musical  range of  pieces reflecting Charlton’s characteristic mix of classical “crossover” pieces, many with such Wyeth-like titles as “Nonesuch (the Wind), “Off At Sea,”April Rain,” and “All That I Feel.”   

The classical underpinnings of the album is derived in part from  the talents of  the esteemed cellist  David Darling and Nancy Rumbel, who plays the French horn exclusively in the album but is perhaps best known as part of  the Grammy® award-winning duo Tingstad & Rumbel.

To order a cd, visit

Posing for Wyeth (an excerpt)


This photo at "Hanks," a culinary landmark in Chadds Ford, was taken when I was dining incognito as a food reviewer. I missed meeting Andrew Wyeth and his famous model, Helga, that day, but the scene was captured by former Inquirer photographer, Barbara Johnston.

Here's the story: 

Modeling for the artist is no mere brush with greatness. He may all but move in - and the experience is always memorable

2006 Philadelphia Inquirer 

In 1989, Andrew Wyeth finished painting a wry inside joke - a tribute, of sorts, to all the models he had loved before. Snow Hill includes Helga Testorf, the artist's most famous subject, but not looking downcast and distant, as he'd painted her in the past. In this one, Testorf kicks up her heels as she frolics round a maypole in the snow. Her dance partners are fellow Chadds Ford residents who appear repeatedly in Wyeth's work, often with a signature trait. Among them, there's Karl Kuerner, his World War II overcoat flying behind him, and Bill Loper, with a hook for a hand. 

That's how his models would react if told of his impending death, quipped Wyeth, who turns 89 tomorrow, four days before retrospectives of his work close at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and two other area museums. "I raised hell with them mentally and emotionally," Wyeth once told his biographer. "They wish I were dead so they wouldn't have to pose anymore." Proud and bemused, and occasionally melancholy, Wyeth's people, those ordinary-folk models, never forget their time with the artist. For weeks, it's one-on-one as Wyeth winnows ideas in sketch after sketch while they hold their poses in all kinds of weather. Then comes painting, an even more painstaking process, during which the relationship intensifies as Wyeth engages his subjects in conversation until they, too, feel part of the process. 

"There you are, in this extraordinary flood of attention, conversing with this brilliant, talented artist," said Joyce Stoner, an art conservator and close friend of the Wyeth family. "You spend each day with him. You go to lunch. He shows you his latest paintings." Then one day, Stoner said, "he stops calling you." 

The letdown can feel like a failed romance. Some fall into what Stoner calls "post-posing depression." Senna Moore, 40, met Wyeth in the late '90s, when he spotted her at a dinner party "passing the hors d'oeuvres," the artist says. 

Moore, a West Chester resident, whose oak-colored skin Wyeth says reminded him of a tree nymph, has been the subject of more than a dozen paintings. Like all of his models, Moore learned on the job. It wasn't easy. Wyeth works slowly, and from life in the actual setting.  For The Privy (1997), the muscular Moore had to pose as if making a mad sprint naked across a field, her arms and legs splayed in a way unlikely to flatter even a supermodel. Her running in place, or standing nude in the hollow of a split tree on Wyeth's Brandywine estate, have also yielded The Omen (1997) & Dryad (2000).  Yet Moore says she has never been uneasy around Wyeth. "I felt relaxed," she said recently. "He's very down-to-earth and has a great sense of humor." Helen Sipala, 71, had it easier posing for Marriage (1993), in which she and her husband, George, are seen asleep in bed.                                      

To read more of the story, scroll below and see the "download" button on this web site. 

Recent stories on the Wyeths


A story about Jamie Wyeth's retrospective at the Brandywine River Museum is available here:

Jamie Wyeth is shown in a photo I took of him posing next to his portraits of his father, the late Andrew Wyeth, and, on the extreme right, his friend, the late Jimmy Lynch in his 1965 painting, Draft Age.   

My Philadelphia Inquirer story about Lynch is available in the "download" section at the bottom of the Home page. 

Misc. Wyeth Pieces


 Andrew Wyeth's iconic "Groundhog Day," was part of an outdoor display in my hometown of West Chester, PA. 

 The work was one of several famous art works displayed in public spaces as part of a three-month project sponsored by  the  Free Library of Philadelphia.  The idea was to bring art to the suburbs. 

I wrote about the project for Fig magazine of  West Chester.  

 Around the same time, I was unexpectedly profiled about my Wyeth connections in a blog by a local blogger, Jim Breslin.

Another blogger, Tim Conaway, also wrote my Wyeth coverage.