Everything is Made of Magic

Monday Morning Musings:

“The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”

–Eden Phillpotts (often incorrectly attributed to W.B. Yeats, according to Quote Investigator)

“Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden–in all the places. “

–Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden


In dreams I flit through walls,

through time and space

dream worlds,

where things are and are not what they seem

full of wonders taken as ordinary

magical and real


We go on an outing to see an exhibition,

wander through a gallery on Pennsylvania Impressionism

then on to see Magical and Real.

Henriette Wyeth painted family and flowers,

She survived polio that weakened her right arm,

learned to draw with her left hand,

and paint with her right.

She lied about her age to enter the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

before she was sixteen.

A self-portrait hangs on the wall between two paintings

the main men of her life–

N.C.Wyeth, her father, posed before one of his landscapes

her husband, Peter Hurd,

in front of one of his western landscapes–

father, husband

east and west,

conflicts and tensions in her life and art.

Before marriage the couple had separated–

she feared that marriage would be the end of her artistic career,

he assured it would not,

she also feared being separated from her family.

During their separation,

she turned to fantasy

painting ghostly figures,

a dead girl,

and three women picnicking under the moon.

(And the story of how that painting was rediscovered

and restored is a bit of magic, too.)

The couple reunited and married,

and eventually, unexpectedly,

Wyeth found beauty in the stark landscapes of the west

and in the people who lived and worked there

She paints a final portrait of her husband,

before his mind succumbs to Alzheimer’s

he  is still ruggedly handsome, distinguished,

He had painted pilots, western landscapes,

advertisements, magazine covers, and presidential portraits

and was better-known that she was,

as her Chaddsford studio went to her brother Andrew

who became the better known Wyeth.

Yet she may have been more talented than brother or husband,

she was an artist,

magical and real


Over time,

a jail becomes a museum

Michener Museum jail doors looking out to Fonthill Castle


beside it, a public library

Do the ghosts of the inmates wander there,

through galleries where once there were cells?

A place where bodies were imprisoned

becomes a place where minds are freed

to imagine and express themselves,

another man builds a castle filled with tiles,

crazy whimsy?

glorious fantasy?



It all flows together like time and space,

sometimes crashing

birthing stars,

ending worlds

But in this world,

we create magic

in art, music, poetry, literature, theater–

real buildings

filled with magic


Artists come and go,

but their works live on

feelings put on canvas

carved in bronze, marble, plastic, steel

brush strokes that echo–

Can’t you feel the wind?

Hear the child laugh?

Feel the sea and taste the salt in the air?


magical and real


And our shadows

real and magical

stand side by side

us, but not us,

I see flowers blooming in the snow–

time flowing, circling–

everything is made of magic,

magical and real



We went to the Michener Art Museum, in Doylestown, PA.

The exhibition was Magical and Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, A Retrospective.

I took some photos, but then I wasn’t certain I was allowed to, so I’m not posting them.

There are also some photos of the paintings in this article.


38 thoughts on “Everything is Made of Magic

  1. You always succeed in taking your readers out of this world – or into worlds they have not investigated. Two things stand out here: the work of Henriette Wyeth, who has lived in the shadow of her family’s male figures, and a jail becoming a museum. Magic!

    • Thank you very much, Marian. I don’t think Henriette (pronounced on-ri-Ette) stood in the shadow of her family’s male figures before she married–and they certainly recognized her talent–but to the public, I don’t think she’s been well-known. Most people have heard of the men. I love the idea of the old jail becoming a museum!

  2. I, too, was struck by the fact that she is less well known than the men, even as she may be more talented. I expect this is entirely related to her being a woman and perceptions that the men who controlled the art and media worlds had toward women. This past week, The New York Times realized that the obituaries they published over time were heavily (entirely?) weighted toward white men. They’ve begun to go back and find the women and people of color who deserved to have their lives (and deaths) covered. Fascinating how even the obituaries shape our thinking of who and what we regard as important.

    • Thank you, Carol. I did see that NY Times article with the obits!
      It seemed though that the men in her family did recognize her talent, and she was getting commissions and doing shows when she was in her teens. It seems that it was her marriage and move to New Mexico that made her less well-known. Now that I think of it, Diego Rivera was probably more well-known that Frieda Kahlo when during their lives.

  3. I love the quotes, and your words to accompany the images. There is so much magic in imagining. I often wish I could go back in time and inhabit the same space as people in the past.

  4. Magical indeed, your poem; the artistry of artists; the life of Henriette Wyeth; shadows that are us, and yet not us; DREAMS. I love the artistry of the Wyeths, and even though I’ve visited museums that include paintings by NC Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth, I’ve never known about Henriette. How WRONG is that???? I used to be fortunate to have dinner once in a while in the Hotel DuPont, where one dining room was devoted to Wyeth paintings. I hardly ate, I just looked. I revisited that restaurant a year ago – the paintings are gone, as the Hotel may be soon sold. Sigh.
    No magic there, any more.

    • Thank you so much, Pam. I didn’t know about her either. Or if I did, I didn’t remember. That’s a shame about the Hotel DuPont (though I don’t think I’ve ever been there). Have you ever been to the Brandywine River Museum? It’s a lovely museum with lots of glass looking over woods and water, and a permanent collection of Wyeth art. I think they also do tours of one of the Wyeth buildings.

  5. Pingback: Sighing for Spring: Haibun – Yesterday and today: Merril's historical musings

  6. Your poetry is magical and real. 🙂
    I would love to see that exhibit. We lived near Chaddsford for a while, and would visit the Brandywine River Museum occasionally. I’m a fan of the Wyeth’s work and I’ve never heard of Henriette Wyeth. That’s terrible!! Thank you for the link to the article. I’m going to check it now.

    • Thanks so much, Robin! 🙂
      I hadn’t heard of her either (that I remembered). I’m glad I read about the exhibit. We’ve never been to the Michener Museum, but the exhibit was really good.

  7. You are so wise and wonderful, Merril! I love the journey through the jail with ghosts who wander freely amongst the art of husband and wife!
    I would have felt you are giving “credit” of the location of the gallery of the two artists, extra advertising. . . I guess I don’t see many permission slips on other blogs. . . It is very smart and protective of your blog and reputation! 👏 A good reminder to keep in mind for gallery visitors.
    Do you happen to know who created the white sculpture? It reminds me of Alexander Calder’s “stabiles” but no “balancing acts!”
    I publish Chulily art without worrying, etc.

    • Thank you, Robin. Wise and wonderful is high praise indeed! 🙂 I’m not quite sure what you mean about the credit and permission slips, but I’m glad you approve.
      I was trying to find out who and what that white sculpture was, but I couldn’t find it online.

      • Oh, somewhere in this post you wrote that you had taken photos from the gallery of the Wyeth and Hurd paintings. You mentioned not displaying them on your blog. It is late or I would find where the line was and why I thought you could have shared them. No worries and it was a comment I had recently discussed with a friend who thought with the Internet, we almost don’t have any more “copyrights” to worry since everyone just takes photos of everything and shares them “free” -ly. We do worry about times she takes a photo and posts it on her Facebook page, I also do this on my blog. (I gave example of Chihuly glass art, which I have seen on many blogs. . .)
        Have a serene Sunday, my friend. 🕊️

      • Oh–I see. Yes, at the end I wrote that I wasn’t sure if I was allowed. It wasn’t a copyright issue. I meant that I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to actually take the photos. AFTER I took some, I saw there were signs saying that on some works there were signs indicating no photos–so apparently, it’s OK for some works, but not for others. I wasn’t certain about the exhibit as a whole.
        As far as posting images in general, I only post the ones that are in the public domain or that the source says you can post them (from Getty Art or NASA, for example, and some museum sites). Of course, I couldn’t use these if I was getting money from the blog or in a published work.

  8. I absolutely enjoyed the portrait of Henriette’s father and her husband. What a great, magical love story which shows how talent runs in families. . . So glad they married and created together artworks, creativity seems like a spark of passion (in my mind). 🎇

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