The long-time chairman of the Brandywine Conservancy and Brandywine River Museum of Art also happened to have artistic talent.
Although George A. “Frolic” Weymouth passed away in 2016 at 79 years old, his presence is still felt in Chadds Ford. Brandywine River Museum of Art curator Audrey Lewis said in a phone interview that Weymouth — who always went by the childhood nickname Frolic — was one of three Brandywine Conservancy founders that spearheaded an effort in the mid-1960s to preserve 60,000 acres and convert a 19th century mill building into an art museum that now has more than 4,000 works of art. “He had a passion for art and nature, and he believed they were related,” she said.
The Brandywine River Museum of Art is displaying the first comprehensive exhibition of Weymouth’s contribution to American painting, “The Way Back: The Paintings of George A. Weymouth,” through June 3.
“The Way Back” will feature 65 works by Weymouth that were selected by guest curator Joseph J. Rishel, a former curator of European art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Working in monochromatic oils when he started painting in the 1950s, it was thanks to his friend, Andrew Wyeth, that he switched to egg tempera portraits and landscapes for the rest of his career.
“Frolic was interested in painting and drawing since he was a little boy. He met Wyeth when he was a teenager,” said Lewis, noting that Weymouth’s mother — a member of the du Pont family — painted until she had children.
The exhibition also includes rarely-seen pencil and watercolor studies Weymouth did in preparation for his tempera paintings. According to Lewis, the study for “Gathering Storm” — a portrait of Ethel Roach, who worked in his parents’ house when he was growing up — is particularly powerful.
Much like Wyeth, Weymouth was very private about his painting and often used friends, family and the scenery that surrounded him daily as the subject matter of his art.
“(Wyeth and Weymouth were) bringing emotion to the landscape. I’d say Frolic was very humble. He didn’t want (his paintings) to, in any way, take attention away from other artists in the museum. But his work was shown, and he became known for his portrait work,” said Lewis, mentioning a portrait he did of Prince Philip of England.
When asked how Weymouth would react to being shown in the museum he founded, she said: “He’d be embarrassed a little bit, but I think he’d be happy with how it was presented. Whenever we did a catalog (for an exhibition), he wanted it to be perfect.”
New York newspapers reported that Wyeth and Weymouth were so close that Weymouth was the one that hid Wyeth’s infamous intimate portraits of neighbor Helga Testorf. Until Wyeth revealed their existence in the mid-1980s, his wife, Betsy, was unaware of the paintings and drawings, many of which were nudes. The Museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is at 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, off of Route 1 in Chadds Ford. Admission is $18, $15 for seniors 65+, $6 for students and children 6 and up. For more information, call (610) 388-2700 or visit www.brandywinemuseum.org.