Introducing the Brandywine Valley
Hello, serenity. Just a 35 minute drive from Philadelphia and a 2 hour drive from New York City, the Brandywine Valley is a lovely countryside region filled with history and a rich artistic heritage. There’s the jaw-dropping mansions of the du Pont family to admire and Wyeth family paintings to see. Don’t forget about getting lost in one of North America’s largest gardens and feeling at peace in nature. Go ahead, stop and smell the roses.
The Brandywine Valley is an idyllic paradise and you’ll love the scenic landscape chock-full with rolling hills and creeks.
The Brandywine Valley spans two states-the region includes the towns Chadds Ford and Kennett Square in Pennsylvania, and the city of Wilmington in Delaware.
The attractions are traced back to the du Pont family and the Wyeth family, as both called the Brandywine Valley home.
Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, known as E.I. du Pont, left his native France in 1799 (The French Revolution was happening at this time and his life was in danger because he supported the king!) and thought Wilmington was the perfect place to start a gunpower business (You’ll learn more about this at Hagley Museum & Library). Alfred I. du Pont was the company’s board director, and built the Nemours Estate for his wife. Pierre S. du Pont was the mastermind behind Longwood Gardens.
It’s no secret that the Brandywine Valley is a stunning place, and the talented Wyeth family artists captured this beauty in their artwork.
N.C. Wyeth, born in Massachusetts, came to Wilmington to study art in 1902 and moved to Chadds Ford in 1908.
You’ll also be blown away when you see the art of N.C.’s son, Andrew. His landscapes are particularly stunning, featuring everything from people in his hometown to the Maine coast. There’s always a special story attached to each of his works- Take, for example, his paintings of his German neighbors in Chadds Ford and farmers. That’s what makes this artist so memorable.
There’s an extra special story attached to Wyeth’s most memorable painting, Christina’s World. The tender work shows Christina Olson, Wyeth’s neighbor in South Cushing, Maine, laying in the grass and looking out toward her home. Christina was Wyeth’s neighbor in Maine (He had a summer home there and would go to paint), and the two had a strong friendship. Christina couldn’t walk due to a muscular condition-it was thought to be polio-and would crawl.
The painting creates so many emotions, as Christina’s back is to us. It’s both inspiring and heartbreaking.
“The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless.” – Andrew Wyeth
Andrew Wyeth’s son, Jamie, was also a gifted artist. At only 22 years old, he was commissioned to paint a portrait of John F. Kennedy (Way to make me feel like a loser at age 21, Jamie). You’ll find all the Wyeth family works at the Brandywine River Valley Museum of Art.
SIGHTS TO EXPLORE
A rundown of things to see in the Brandywine Valley.
- Nemours Mansions and Gardens
Live a French fairytale and visit the place that’s called the Versailles of the U.S. See the 77-room mansion and then walk around the most extensive French gardens of North America. La vie est belle.
2. Brandywine River Museum of Art
Nestled among the Brandywine River, this charming museum is right in the middle of the country and is an oasis on its own. Admire the Wyeth family works, and you can even take the N.C. Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth Studio Tours!
3. Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library
This spectacular site is so big that visitors often say you can’t see everything in one day. Get ready to see the jaw-dropping 175 room house/Galleries and just wait till you see the gardens. The gardens have everything-ponds, winding trails, Enchanted Woods-you name it.
4. Longwood Gardens
You have never seen gardens and fountains like this. Marvel over the flowers and greenhouses-there are even fountain shows set to music.
5. Hagley Museum and Library
Explore the site where it all began- E.I. du Pont established the family gunpowder business here. Tour the stunning home, check out the powder yard, take in a gunpowder demonstration, and see the Workers’ Hill Community.
6. Delaware Museum of Art
This beautiful place has the largest Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom. Spot the works of Dante and Christina Rosetti, Edward Hopper, Dale Chihuly, and Frederic Church.