A Day at the Brandywine River Museum

Touring the Brandywine River Museum with kids in tow

The first time I visited the Brandywine River Museum, I took in as much as I could while pushing a 2 1/2-year-old in a stroller with a 10-week-old strapped to my front in a Bjorn. It took 11 years, but I finally found my way back to the charming art museum in Chadds Ford. And this time, my sons walked alongside my husband and me. (Well, they're 11 and 13, so they shuffled along a few feet behind us.)

As I remembered, the collection is impressive (with a large holding of three generations of Wyeth art), the grist-mill setting on the banks of the Brandywine River scenic and the galleries navigable. We saw everything in the museum proper in less than two hours, the perfect size to maintain kid attention spans. 

The first room we visited held dozens of American illustrations, including the ones Brandywine native son N.C. Wyeth produced for an acclaimed edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. It was cool to see the full-size paintings in juxtaposition to their smaller, reproduced selves in book form. And because I'm seafarer-challenged (I can never remember which book or story Ahab, Nemo, Bligh and all the other captain/pirate types belong to), I asked my older son who the peg-leg pirate with the parrot on his shoulder was. "Mom, that's Long John Silver." I got the patented eye roll; all that was missing was the "duh."

Kids & Art Museums
For more on touring art museums with kids, see "Unlock Art Museum  Wonders" and "Tour & Explore Art Museums."

Our collective favorite of Wyeth's Treasure Island illos was this graphic yellow and white endpaper action painting:

Of the Brandywine landscape painters represented in the next gallery we visited, I liked the vivid colorwork on burnt wood of Horace Pippin, an African American artist who had lost the use of his right arm in WWI:

The kids preferred Jamie Wyeth's Battleship, an action painting of a different sort:

As expected, the kids ebbed and flowed in their interest in the art. Portraiture, not so fascinating. But American still-lifes of hunting gear and barrels of money were worthy of attention. As was a small area of pop art recalling Dali and Warhol, both of whom the boys studied about at school. They also liked a small bronze sculpture of boxers and a sea serpent weather vane in the current exhibit of these ornate farm toppers.

The third floor is full of Wyeth work, anchored by Andrew's famous maypole dance, a pastime that my younger son found "weird":

Much more to his taste was Jamie Wyeth's enormous pig:

While strolling the galleries, the boys finished a good deal quicker than my husband and I did, and they waited for us on benches along the huge plate-glass windows overlooking the river, where they could watch tubers and kayakers float along. Had we a little more time to spend, we could have popped into the nice-looking restaurant on the first floor or taken the Wyeth Studio tour. Next time. It won't take another 11 years for me to get back. And there was enough for the kids to see that I bed they'd come along again, too.

The Brandywine River Museum is open daily from 9:30am-4:30pm, $12 adults, $6 kids 6-12, free for 6 and younger. Admission is free for everyone on Sundays from 9:30am-12noon through November 24. Keep up with the museum's kid activities at our handy-dandy Calendar of Events.

Categories: MK Memo