Andrew Wyeth: Memory & MagicAndrew Wyeth died today at his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania - the place where was born 91 years ago. For many people - largely those who prefer realism to abstraction - he had been America's greatest living artist.
(Trodden Weed by Andrew Wyeth, 1951)
(Trodden Weed by Andrew Wyeth, 1951)
When in Maine in 2006, I made a point of travelling to Rockland, Maine in order to visit the Farnsworth Art Museum and the Wyeth Centre where I saw a number of Wyeth's work in Egg Tempera and watercolour - all of which were very impressive. I've always been entranced by his draughtsmanship. I recommend you try and see his work if you ever get a chance.
This is a note of the speech given at the presentation of the National Medal of Arts to Wyeth in 2007.
The paintings of Andrew Wyeth have been etched in the American national consciousness for more than a half a century. While many of Wyeth's landscapes and interior views of rural Pennsylvania and Maine are recognizable settings, his work portrays an inner life that is elusive and enigmatic.Take a look at my resource site Andrew Wyeth - Resources for Art Lovers which I developed a while back if you'd like to find out more about Wyeth, take a look at where you can see his paintings online and see some of the books which were published about him in his lifetime.
The youngest of five children, Andrew Newell Wyeth was born on July 12, 1917 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania in the Brandywine Valley near Philadelphia. He was educated at home with his father, noted illustrator N.C. Wyeth, providing art lessons. When he was only 20 years old, he had his first solo exhibition at Macbeth Gallery in New York City. The rapid and complete sale of the exhibition inventory was an indication of his enormous popularity with the American public in the years to come.
In 1939, Wyeth met Betsy James whose family had a summer place not far from the Wyeths in Cushing, Maine. She was 17 years old, Wyeth was 20, and after a week he proposed. They were married the following spring and have remained married for 68 years. Over those years, Betsy has been her husband's protector as well as artistic guide.
In October 1945, Wyeth's father and his three-year old nephew Newell were killed in a car accident. He has referred to this tragedy as not only of deep personal impact but also formative in the development of his artistic style. Shortly after the accident, his paintings became more serious and intense, characterized by a muted palette, highly realistic depictions, and emotionally charged subjects, often tinged with a sense of nostalgia and loss. He found nearly all of his subjects close to either Chadds Ford or Cushing.
In 1950, he was selected along with Jackson Pollock by Time magazine as one of the greatest American artists. That and other public attentions, made clear the battle lines drawn between supporters and practitioners of realism and abstraction as represented by Wyeth and Pollock. To add to the art world debates, in 1986, Wyeth made public a collection of 246 studies, drawings, and paintings, including many nudes, he had made of Helga Testorf, a neighbor in Chadds Ford.
Wyeth remains an enormously popular artist among the public and by museums. His work is in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, among many others. Exhibitions of his work have been mounted by the National Gallery of Art (the first to display the Helga works in 1987), the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston,) Metropolitan Museum of Art, and most recently the Philadelphia Museum of Art, amongst many others.
In 1963, Andrew Wyeth became the first painter to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was conferred by President John F. Kennedy. In 1977, he became the first American artist since John Singer Sargent elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. In 1978, he was asked to join the Soviet Academy of the Arts, and in 1980, he was the first living U.S. artist to be elected to Britain's Royal Academy. Wyeth received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1988, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States Congress.
Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic takes a fresh look at the work of one of America's most beloved artists. In examining his entire oeuvre, the book celebrates the artist's ongoing love affair with everyday life-domestic, natural, and architectural. Found throughout Wyeth's work, these objects form patterns that illuminate core themes and reveal the artist wrestling with issues of memory, temporality, embodiment, and the metaphysical. Organized chronologically and thematically, the book explores how the artist's approach to these subjects was formed in his early career, and has been revisited in new and surprising ways in recent years.Here are some links to article about his death which I'll be adding into my resource site.
- New York Times - Andrew Wyeth, Famed and Infamous Artist, Dies at 91
- International Herald Tribune - Andrew Wyeth, famed and infamous artist, dies at 91 (same author as the NY Times - some variation)
- Boston Globe - Andrew Wyeth, painter of American landscapes, dies at 91
- BBC - US artist Andrew Wyeth dies at 91