Thursday, August 28, 2008

Andrew Wyeth - Resources for Art Lovers

People who know me, also know that I always develop an information site every time I want to find out more about an artist. I've had Andrew Wyeth on the 'to do' list for some time as his paintings intrigue me - so I've started a new information site in my Resources for Art Lovers series - Andrew Wyeth - Resources for Art Lovers.
Andrew Wyeth (1917-present) is an American Contemporary Realist Painter who works mainly in watercolor and/or egg tempera. He is one of the USA's most popular and celebrated artists. This site provides an introduction to Andrew Wyeth and links to official websites, past exhibitions in museums and art galleries, books about the artist and his work and where you can find images online.
An Introduction to Andrew Wyeth (1917 - present)
I've had this 'in draft' for some time but visiting the Hammerschoi exhibition recently (Vilhelm Hammershøi - a curious mix of Vermeer, Hopper and Wyeth?) prompted me to progress it to a state where it can be published.

Book cover of Andrew Wyeth: Master Drawings from the Artist's Collection
by Henry Adams, Andrew Wyeth

At the moment the site is a collection of links I've assembled so that I can find out more about him.

If you also want to try and find out some more yourself then you just need to click on a link to go straight to that topicI'd be grateful for any advice as to whether or not I'm missing some great information sites about Wyeth. I feel at the moment unable to comment further about the differences of opinion about his work until I've read some more. Plus I'm still puzzled as to the use of magic realism in connection with his work - can anybody comment on that?

Also I've found lots of lovely books about him - but I never see any books about him in bookshops in the UK and am therefore very reliant on book reviews before knowing what to look at. I've included the publisher synopsis in the site and I think I'm leaning towards Memory and Magic.

Does anybody have a book about Wyeth or read one that they can recommend?

Book cover of Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic
- a retrospective of Wyeth's works

Why I like Wyeth's work

Nevertheless, having seen his paintings 'up close and personal' at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland Maine, I know I'm a fan and I can say why that is. The reasons I like his work are as follows
  • In a world where oil paintings rule the roost, he's one of a very few painters who have mastered media which others disdain or find too difficult (ie watercolour and egg tempera)
  • Wyeth works in a calligraphic way - painting as if he's drawing at times - plus he scrapes out and lifts off. It's as much about what's removed as it is about what is laid down - and that always has resonance with me
  • He also works with a very simple, some would say austere, palette but finds ways of making it work and making it relevant. I'm very into colour and I'm always intrigued by people who can work with so little colour.
  • Complexity is simplified - his objects and shapes in his paintings are pared down - while simple flat surfaces are far from simple or flat
  • His compositions are often brilliantly simple - ie brilliant in their simplicity and ability to draw you in. Partly this is because, in my opinion, he's an absolute master of tonal values. Maybe that comes from working in watercolour?
  • Some paintings have a back story told in a symbolic way but this is the area which I know very little about.
In the meantime, here are some links to important works by Wyeth
The woman crawling through the tawny grass was the artist's neighbor in Maine, who, crippled by polio, "was limited physically but by no means spiritually." Wyeth further explained, "The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless." He recorded the arid landscape, rural house, and shacks with great detail, painting minute blades of grass, individual strands of hair, and nuances of light and shadow. In this style of painting, known as magic realism, everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery.
MOMA caption to Christina's World
To many his accessible paintings evoke some mythical rural past, striking a powerful chord in the American psyche. Like Dürer, whom he greatly admired, he placed great emphasis on observation, and his detailed style reflects this. Nevertheless, through the series of pencil and watercolour studies for a work, many details were often pared away.
MOMA - Andrew Wyeth - About the Artist
Great American Artists - Resources for Art Lovers

For those who like American artists, I've also realised that I've now developed enough sites to make it worthwhile having a group dedicated to them! So - if you're interested - why not take a peek at Great American Artists - Resources for Art Lovers. It's split into two groups:


  1. Great post, and wonderful subject. I'm reading Memory and Magic, and I would recommend it. Excellent color plates. If you want to read more about the history of the artist (inclusive of his background and stories related to particular paintings) I would recommend Andrew Wyeth, a Secret Life by Richard Meryman.

  2. Andrew Wyeth - Great subject!

    I highly recommend "Andrew Wyeth - A Secret Life" by Richard Meryman. It is a compelling read and "secret" is the operational word. There is quite a bit in it on NC Wyeth as well.

    The Farnsworth Museum is also worth going to if you happen to head up to Wyeth country in Rockland, Maine. They even have a Wyeth Center. When I went a few years back I just missed seeing him!

    Finally around the museum area you can explore where Wyeth painted. The house in his painting "Christina's World" has been made into a museum. You can go through it and see the views and that Wyeth painted.

    He is truly a remarkable a painter with such a unique vision. What I like about his work is that he has taken some of the narrative influences of his father but driven in his own direction into fine art. Yet, I always see such a strong sense of the abstract in his work beyond the realism. He began his career going head on into realism when it was not fashionable. Pretty brave.

  3. Hi Katherine. I too would recommend A Secret Life- fascinating biography which also fills in some of the back story meaning in the paintings.

  4. Thanks for your comments about the books - they're very helpful - and I think I now know what to order!

    Linda - I visited the Farnworth Museum in Rockland in September '06 but it was a miserable Maine day with rain so heavy that it was like fog so we didn't venture any further than the Wyeth Centre.

    I've received a very long comment as an email from an artist and I'm going to check whether I can post it - as it contains lots of useful info!

  5. I love Andrew Wyeths Work, thanks so much for this post. What I love about his work is how he makes ordinary subjects become "mastersubjects" and masterpieces!


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