Sunday, January 18, 2009

He Paints No More.....

This past Friday, 1/16/2009, brought with it the death of my favorite artist of all eras and genres, Andrew Wyeth, at age 91. Although I am in awe of the works of so many great artists through the ages, his always seemed to call to me and bade me to gaze on his work for endless hours in order to absorb as much as my simple understanding of artworks allows. This post is offered in his memory to any who may be interested
"With watercolour, you can pick up the atmosphere, the temperature, the sound of snow shifting through the trees or over the ice of a small pond or against a windowpane. Watercolour perfectly expresses the free side of my nature." - Andrew Wyeth
Andrew Wyeth was born July 12, 1917 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the youngest of five children. He was a sickly child so his mother and father pulled him out of school after he contracted whooping cough. His parents home-schooled him in every subject including art.
His father, Newell Convers Wyeth, was a well known illustrator whose art was featured in many magazines, calendars, posters and murals, and he also painted maps for the National Geographic Society
Andrew had a vivid memory and wonderful imagination that led to a great fascination for art. His father recognized an obvious raw talent nurturing and undertook teaching him the basics of traditional academic drawing. Andrew began painting watercolour studies of the rocky coast and the sea at the family summer home in Port Clyde Maine.
He worked primarily in watercolours and egg tempera often using shades of brown and grey. He held his first one-man show of watercolours painted around the family's summer home in 1937. It was a great success that would lead to many more.
He married at twenty-two to a local girl named Betsey James and had two boys, Nicholas who became an art dealer, and James who became the third generation artist in his family. Interestingly, although James' father was the most popular artist in his family history, he was greatly inspired by his grandfather's illustrations.
Andrew was featured on the cover of American Artist as well as many other famous magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post that displayed his painting "The Hunter." His first solo museum exhibition was presented in 1951 at the Farnsworth Art Museum. Since then he has seen many more successes and is considered one of the most "collectible" living artist's of our time.
Wyeth, who focused on the people and landscapes of Pennsylvania's Brandywine Valley and coastal Maine in works such as "Christina's World," died in his sleep at his Philadelphia-area home.
Although some critics deride his art as drab and kitschy, Andrew Wyeth's melancholy paintings were praised by others as profound reflections of 20th Century alienation and existentialism. It was in Maine that Wyeth found the subject for "Christina's World," his best-known painting, and my personal favorite painting of all time. Wyeth's world was as limited in scale, and as rich in associations, as "Christina's World," which shows a disabled woman looking up a grassy rise toward her farm home, her face tantalizingly unseen. It was Betsy who introduced Wyeth to Christina Olson. Wyeth befriended the disabled old woman and her brother, and practically moved in with them for a series of studies of the house, its environs and its occupants. The acme of that series was "Christina's World," painted in 1948. It was Olson's house, but the figure was Betsy Wyeth.

The old Olson home is still there, but the bushes that he omitted in the painting are now huge trees at the spot 'Christina' is sitting. Artists often stop at the Olson place in Cushing, Maine to capture the scenery in their own works. around the area he was known mostly as simply Andy, an open and friendly man. He so loved the area that he requested he be interred at the Olson Family Cemetery by the Olson Farm.

In this 1987 file photo, American artist Andrew Wyeth stands beside one of his paintings of 'mystery model' Helga at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. It was in Pennsylvania that he met Helga Testorf, a neighbor in his native Chadds Ford who became the subject of intimate portraits that brought him millions of dollars and a wave of public attention in 1986. The "Helga" paintings, many of them full-figure nudes, came with a whiff of scandal: Wyeth said he had not even told his wife, Betsy, about the more than 200 paintings and sketches until he had completed them in 1985.
Wyeth had his first professional success outside of Maine at age 20, with an exhibition of Maine landscapes at a gallery in New York. Two years later he met his future wife, Betsy James. Betsy Wyeth was a strong influence on her husband's career, serving as his business agent, keeping the world at bay and guiding his career choices. "Really, I think one's art goes only as far and as deep as your love goes," Wyeth said in a Life magazine interview in 1965.
A few of my other favorites of his. Daydreams Around The CornerMaster's Bedroom
In this Feb. 23, 1964, file photo, artist Andrew Wyeth stands in front of his farm in Chadds Ford, Pa.

A sign dedicated to Andrew Wyeth is seen on Jimmy John's, a restaurant he is said to have frequented in Chadds Ford, Pa I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Wyeth at several events over the the years and, although he didn't know me from any of a multitude of admirers, he had way of making you feel like you'd been friends forever. He'll be greatly missed. Until next time, take care.


Kay said...

Gosh Mike, I've ALWAYS liked all the Wyeth paintings. It just amazed me what he could do with the watercolors. I'm sorry to hear of his passing but glad he went peacefully. I loved reading your account of Andrew Wyeth and really loved seeing the paintings. I'm just in awe that you actually met him. That is really fabulous! I first learned about him in art class in college and was mystified by the painting of Christina. I didn't realize she was disabled or that she was real. Thank you for the most wonderful art lesson.

tweetey30 said...

Those are some paintings. I have never before looked at Art that way but these are wonderful pieces. thanks for sharing.

The Guy Who Writes This said...

And he wasn't on my death pool list.

patricia said...

Thanks, Mike. Nice tribute to Wyeth.
He left us a wealth of wonderful, quiet paintings, always in that blue, gray, and wheat color scheme.The more you look at them, the more meaning they have. I believe Christina had Cerebral Palsy, if that is what they still call it, and you will see it in the shape of her body and the way it is turned, and the thinness of her arm. Once you see that, the painting says much more.
Sad to see such genius pass from the world.

Linda said...

You really do get lost in his paintings. Christina's World always makes me think beyond the painting. It's odd but even though she's turned from me I still can see her face. I also like Around the Corner. I can imagine myself there on a nice breezy Spring day. Yes! I did look in the window, couldn't help myself...:^)
I really enjoyed this post and to learn a little about Mr. Wyeth. Thank you Mike...

R.C. said...

Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World inspired me to do a painting. I also used muted natural colors and the sounds of shifting snow and natures elements to create it. It was of a poor, beat up man, down on his luck laying in a snow pile in the parking lot and staring at the Dew Drop Inn's door. You can feel his pain as all he desires is to make it to that door. People are passing him and no one will give him a buck or two, though he asks them very nicely....
OH WAIT! That wasn't a painting I did. That was a Polaroid taken of me by Fry Bread Girl....NEVER MIND....Yuk Yuk Yuk....:)

ursusdave said...

I was in a room with Andrew and his wife one time. It was the crowded office of the dean of West Chester University; the school is just west of Andrew's home in Chads Ford, Pa.. He was at the school to receive an honorary degree from the school, but I knew that he was just being a nice guy and honoring them by accepting it. I was there as a photographer for the school's student newspaper. A lot of photographers were there that day. Andrew was very quiet and humble the entire time. I knew that it was a day I would never forget. He was a great person, on top of being The American Artist. Mike, your piece about him has given us readers another warming and wonderful insight into your very soul. Thank you, you too are a great person.

Mike S said...

Kay...His son is a great one as well.

Tweety...always take time for art, it makes the whole world a nicer place.

Guy...well, YOU'RE the one who said that being ON your list was indicative of longevity as the listed folks rarely died during the year they're listed.

Pat...that's still what they call it; but Christina actually suffered the effects of polio.

Linda...ALWAYS stop to peek into the openings whenever possible.

RC...I think you were more likely asking for beer;)

Dave....he ended up with 7 honorary degrees from various insitutions of higher learning. Each well deserved. Yes, according to those up here I've spoken to who knew him well over the years, he was a very gentle, humble, yet inspiring genius of a man & well liked by all.

Midlife Mom said...

Great post Mike! I've always enjoyed his work and lived for a number of years when I was in boarding school near his town of Cushing. Never got to the see the homestead though, we weren't allowed to stray very far!

Muhd Imran said...

A picture paints a thousand words. The paintings he left will continue speaking thousand words more with every generation to come.

What a wonderful tribute.

Melly/Melody/or Mel said...

We have Master's Bedroom and we love it. I've never seen the Daydreams painting but it is they all are.

Hahn at Home said...

I remember this was your favorite painting from a post I did a couple years ago.

I heard some great analysis of his life's work on NPR last week - did you catch it?

And Guy - Why wasn't he on your death pool - sure would have increased your statistics!

Mare said...

We've got to hope that art is never removed from our schools' curriculum. I saw the passing of Wyeth on the news. I learned more from your post,though.
I'm going back to the post before this and see what else I can learn!

Sandy's Notes said...

What a great tribute to a truly amazing artist. I've seen some of his work and love it also.

I didn't realize that Christina was disabled either.

Nice post dear injun.

Jean said...

I'm a Wyeth fan, too, and have several framed prints of his paintings in my living room. It's sad that he has left us, but his paintings are surely going to keep him here with us, too.

tshsmom said...

WOW, you got to meet the great Wyeth?!
I like works of art that you can step into. It isn't art to me if you can't tell if it's upside down. ;)

deanna said...

Thank you for the well-detailed post. I've always been moved by Christina's World, too, and now want to become more familiar with his other work.

Jul said...

I have a wyeth print, and his loss is a hole that no one really can fill.

My favorite artist is Jenny Holzer, a text-artist.

Brother Tim said...

I've got a Medicine Shield for you at my place.

Peace and Grace

MissKris said...

Oh, I've always loved his work, too! I've always loved art of all kind. One of my biggest thrills was when some of Monet's paintings were on display at Portland's art museum and I got a chance to go with a friend of mine. What a thrill to see an artist's original work for a change.

Jane said...

I came across this post tonight in my wanderings through blogland.

I was first introduced to Andrew Wyeth in college...I do not remember the painting (it was an old soldier from Maine), but I still remember my emotions when I first saw it. That began a love for his paintings. In the late 1970s my family moved to West Chester, PA. I spent a lot of time in Chadds Ford taking various classes. AW was an occasional visitor. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but I heard many students speak of his encouragement. He was an amazing artist.