Wyeth Day Lecture: Andrew Wyeth, King Vidor and the Big Parade by scholar John Adams

On Monday, July 12, the Farnsworth Art Museum will be celebrating Wyeth Day with a lecture by scholar Henry Adams entitled Andrew Wyeth, King Vidor, and The Big Parade. The lecture, which will take place at the Strand Theatre in Rockland at 6 p.m., will be free of charge, and no reservations are necessary. In 2009, Governor John Baldacci proclaimed July 12 as Wyeth Day throughout the State of Maine, and urged all citizens to honor N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Betsy James Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth who have collectively served this state for almost ninety years.

Andrew Wyeth first saw the silent film epic of World War I, The Big Parade, with his father in 1925. The film’s emotional impact was overwhelming and long-lasting on Andrew Wyeth. Over the years he watched it more than two hundred times. In a 1975 letter to its director, King Vidor, Wyeth declared of The Big Parade that “I have always viewed it with awe,” and described it as “the only truly great film ever produced.” 

Many of Wyeth’s most famous paintings, including Soaring (1942), Winter (1946), Christina’s World (1948), The Patriot (1964) and The German (1975), contain references to specific scenes in The Big Parade. The film also affected Wyeth’s artistic approach in deeper ways: in one of his very few admissions that he was influenced by the work of another artist, Wyeth wrote of The Big Parade that “in many abstract ways it has influenced my paintings.” 

This lecture will explore Wyeth’s fascination with World War I and The Big Parade, and the ways in which Vidor’s innovative narrative approach and film technique encouraged Wyeth to rethink the expressive and philosophical possibilities of painting. Henry Adams holds a Ph.D. in Art History from Yale University and is Professor of American Art at Case Western Reserve. He has worked as a curator and museum director at institutions such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri and the Cleveland Museum of Art. He has spoken extensively at museums and colleges around the country and has written a number of books and articles on American artists. In 2006 Adams wrote the text for Andrew Wyeth: Master Drawings from the Artist’s Collection, published by the Brandywine River Museum.


See a trailer for King Vidor's The Big Parade here