Andrew Newell Wyeth (born July 12, 1917) is an American realist painter, and regionalist artist. He is one of the best-known of the 20th century and sometimes referred to as the "Painter of the People" due to his popularity with the American public. He is the son of the illustrator and artist N. C. Wyeth, and the brother of inventor Nathaniel Wyeth and artist Henriette Wyeth Hurd, and the father of artist Jamie Wyeth and Nicholas Wyeth .
Wyeth's favorite subject is the land and inhabitants around his hometown of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and those near his summer home in Cushing, Maine. One of the most well-known images in 20th century American art, is Christina's World (1948), in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
In 1937 at age twenty, he had his first one-man exhibition of watercolors at Macbeth Gallery in New York City. The entire inventory of paintings sold out, and Wyeth's career was launched. His style was different from his father’s—more spare, more ”dry”, and more limited in color range. He stated his belief that “the great danger of the Pyle school is picture-making.” He did some book illustrations in his early career, but not to the extent that N.C. Wyeth did.
In 1940, Wyeth married Betsy James and in 1943 the Wyeths had their first child Nicholas, followed by James ("Jamie") three years later. Andrew painted portraits of both Jamie and Betsy. In October 1945, Andrew Wyeth's father and his three-year-old nephew, Newell Convers Wyeth II (b. 1941), were killed when their car stalled on railroad tracks near their home and was struck by a train. Wyeth has referred to his father's death as a formative emotional event in his artistic career, in addition to being a personal tragedy. It was shortly after this that Wyeth's art consolidated into his mature and enduring style, characterized by a subdued color palette, realistic renderings, and the depiction of emotionally charged symbolic objects.
In 1948, Wyeth began painting Anna and Karl Kuerner, neighbors of the Wyeths in Chadds Ford. It was at the Olsen farm in 1948 that he painted Christina’s World, his famous image of crippled Christina Olsen yearning for her home. Like the Olsons in Maine, the Kuerners and their farm became one of Wyeth's most important subjects for nearly 30 years. The Kuerners' farm is now available to tour through the Brandywine River Museum as is the N.C. Wyeth home and studio.
Wyeth stated about the Kuerner Farm, “I didn’t think it a picturesque place. It just excited me, purely abstractly and purely emotionally”.
When Christina Olsen died in the winter of 1969, Wyeth re-focused his artistic attention upon Siri Erickson, capturing her naked innocence in Indian Summer (1970). It was a prelude to the Helga paintings.
In 1986, millionaire Leonard E. B. Andrews purchased the entire collection, preserving it intact.
The works were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in 1987, and in a coast-to-coast tour.The Helga works are now owned by a private Japanese interest, which has agreed to allow additional exhibitions. In March 2002, Wyeth painted Gone, his last Helga picture, and it joined the collection on recent tours between 2002-2006.
Museum exhibitions of Wyeth's paintings have set attendance records, but many art critics have been critical of his work. Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The Village Voice, derided his paintings as "Formulaic stuff not very effective even as illustrational 'realism'". Common criticisms are that Wyeth's art verges on illustration, and that his rural subject matter is sentimental.
Admirers of Wyeth's art believe that his paintings, in addition to sometimes displaying overt beauty, contain strong emotional currents, symbolic content, and underlying abstraction. Most observers of Wyeth's art agree that he is skilled at handling the mediums of watercolor and egg tempera (which uses egg yolk as a medium). Wyeth has avoided using traditional oil paints. His use of light and shadow let the subjects illuminate the canvas. His paintings and titles suggest sound, as is implied in many paintings including Distant Thunder (1961) and Spring Fed (1967).
Wyeth has been the recipient of numerous honorary degrees. Most recently, Wyeth received the 2007 National Medal of Arts. In 1963, Andrew Wyeth became the first painter to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1977, he became the first American artist since John Singer Sargent elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. In 1980, Wyeth became the first living American artist to be elected to Britain's Royal Academy. In 1987 Wyeth received a D.F.A. from Bates College. On November 9, 1988, Wyeth received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States legislature.
Tom Duffield, the production designer for the American remake of The Ring, drew inspiration from Wyeth's paintings for the look of the film. M. Night Shyamalan based his movie The Village on paintings by Andrew Wyeth. The Village was filmed in Chadds Ford not far from Wyeth's studio. Director Philip Ridley has stated that his 1990 film The Reflecting Skin is heavily inspired by the paintings of Andrew Wyeth in its visual style.
"America's Artist": Andrew Wyeth, who recently passed away at age 91, was once nominated by an art historian as the most underrated and most overrated artist of the 20th century.
Mar 01, 2009; The opinions of art critics frequently clash, both with one another and with the public at large. In the case of Andrew Wyeth,...