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Brandywine River Museum opens The Magic Pencil of the Amazing F.O.C. Darley

Brandywine River Museum presents The Magic Pencil of the Amazing F.O.C. Darley, an exhibition on view from January 19 through March 10, 2013, whose talent in book and magazine illustrations made him the most popular illustrator of his day.

F.O.C. Darley (1822-1888) detail of Pfalz Castle, on the Rhine, 1866, Collection Brandywine River Museum, Museum Purchase, 2005.

Darley received praise for his “magic pencil,” immortalizing the fictional characters created by the most famous authors of his day, including Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper. He was also renowned for his drawings and prints related to the Revolutionary War, Civil War and the American frontier.

A self-taught artist, Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888) was born in Philadelphia. As a young man he was part of a lively arts scene that included Edgar Allan Poe, who in 1843 chose Darley-the only illustrator Poe ever hand-picked-to illustrate his short story “The Gold Bug.” Darley moved to New York City in 1848, and his work began to appear in magazines such as Harper’s Weekly and in books by various publishers. He illustrated works by popular authors of the day, such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Clement C. Moore and Harriet Beecher Stowe (as well as those mentioned above). Darley created lively drawings for all of Washington Irving’s major novels, including Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Darley married in 1859 and moved to Claymont, Delaware, where he worked until his death in 1888 in his home-studio while finishing a portfolio of Dickens’ character sketches. His Victorian mansion, now known as the Darley House, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The Magic Pencil of the Amazing F.O.C. Darley features works from the Brandywine River Museum’s rich permanent collection, rarely seen prints on loan from the Darley Society, and several important works on loan from private collectors. The exhibition also includes bank notes and bonds illustrated by Darley, a sketch book from his European tour, drawings for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers and Sylvester Judd’s Margaret, as well as examples of his important historical drawings and more.

The Brandywine River Museum is located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, PA. The museum is open daily, except Christmas Day, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults; $8 for seniors, $6 for students and children ages 6 to 12; and free for members and children under six. Museum admission is free on Sunday mornings from 9:30 to noon from January 13 through November 24 (except during the Antiques Show on Memorial Day weekend). For more information, please call 610-388-2700 or visit

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