Bringing Painters Back to Painter’s Folly – Chadds Ford Live
Note: This is the first part of a series that will follow as Painter’s Folly at Chadds Ford is restored, updated and converted into a space celebrating both the past and future of art in the Brandywine Valley. Each article will explore a different aspect of the place and the renovation process, from its history to its use as artistic inspiration to its new destination.
The Brandywine tradition is vast, its inspiration and history spreading to every nook and cranny of the Brandywine Valley. But if you were to search for his soul, there’s a case to be made that he resides in Painter’s Folly, that gorgeous old house hidden behind trees along Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford. More than just a house or an example of Italian architecture, it is a place where the history of art returns again and again. Today, Chadds Ford is looking to bring back that great tradition, as plans to transform the house into a mix of artists’ studios and performance spaces take shape.
Although it was the home and inspiration of some of the Brandywine Valley’s most famous artists, Painter’s Folly takes its name, oddly enough, from a family with no connection to art. Samuel Painter emigrated to America at the turn of the 17ecentury, settling first in Philadelphia and then in Birmingham Township. His prolific family is why Painter’s Crossing is so named today. Family-built homes dot the landscape, many of which have their own famous history.
Samuel Painter, a descendant of their namesake, chose a spot on a hill beside the rolling fields where the Battle of Brandywine had taken place to build his own home in 1857. As Italianate architecture rose to dominate the landscape, the neighbors began contemptuously referring to the house as
“Painter’s Folly” and the name stuck. The house is certainly an interesting style compared to the local architecture, and is known today as one of the finest examples of Italianate architecture in the region.
Painter’s Folly was sold to various owners for about a century, from 1870 to the 1970s, and was occasionally used as a private residence and medical practice. The house would be rented to another descendant of the original Painter family, Howard Pyle, at the turn of the 19e century. There he founded the Brandywine Tradition of art and taught painters such as NC Wyeth, Frank E. Schoonover, Harvey Dunn and Clifford Ashley, among many others who would go on to successful careers in the art world. NC Wyeth would be inspired to move to Chadds Ford himself and raise his family there, including his famous son, Andrew Wyeth.
Andrew Wyeth grew up visiting Painter’s Folly with his father. Throughout his career he has returned, whether in the house itself or in the surrounding grounds and the Brandywine Battlefield next door. It was during such a visit that he met the house’s new owners, George and Helen Sipala, shortly after they had settled in in 1974. This was to develop into a long and close friendship, with the Sipalas becoming no only confidants. of Wyeth but also inspirations and models.
Wyeth would paint many of his well-known works from his later career at Painter’s Folly. The widow’s walk, a standard decorative feature of Italian architecture, would feature prominently. At Painter’s Folly, Widows’ Aisle is enclosed by arched windows, closer to the Italianate cupola than the open aisles seen on many New England homes (and supposedly haunted by many of these widows eponyms, always walking back and forth, waiting for their sea – the captain’s husbands must return home). The paintings depicted the Widow’s Walk from both exterior perspectives and from the interior, where Wyeth took advantage of natural light to highlight his models and the surrounding landscape.
Painter’s Folly is a jewel both in its structure and its eminent place in the history of art. As it begins to evolve again, preparing to welcome new artists from all traditions, we will look back on its history, follow plans to restore it to greatness while creating a place accessible to all, and see what its future holds. .