A Nurse with a Gun

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Andrew Wyeth

Despised as an illustrator by academic artists and reviled by the avant garde for his simple existence, Andrew Wyeth lived as close to his art as any artist ever did. HelgaBest known for "Christina's World," Wyeth spent his life painting landscapes and people of Pennsylvania's Brandywine Valley and Maine's coast. Through it all, he remained true to himself and his work.

I remember when the "Helga" paintings were made public in 1986. The figurative paintings and drawings were a secretive body of work spanning 15 years. Wyeth's detractors as well as his disciples were stunned. I was not. Andrew Wyeth was never an illustrator or a one trick pony. He was an artist in the classical sense, a modern day Rembrandt. The figure paintings of Helga Testorf were just another chapter in that regard.

Far too many became wrapped up in the meticulous nature of his egg tempera paintings. Egg tempera, a media from the middle ages, demands accurate draftsmanship and precise brushstrokes. I suppose it was easy to dismiss Wyeth if one never looked deeper. But looking deeper was revealing. Andrew WyethIt was Wyeth's watercolors and studies that absolutely blew me away. The apparent ease with which the man could render form, light and darkness with a single splatter and whip of a brush was unique.

"Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing...... Then a work of art may happen," declared Wyeth. There is a zen truth there. It is often the drawings, the sketches, the watercolors and preliminary pieces to the revered masterpiece that reveal the thinking, indeed, the soul of the artist.

Andrew Wyeth died in his sleep at his home in Chadds Ford on Friday. He was 91. Wyeth did not take the common path. Like Robert Frost, he took the road less traveled, and it made all the difference.



Blogger Brambor said...

The example of his work you posted is stunning.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Absolutely, hands down my favorite artist. He had an amazing way of seeing, then capturing light.

5:17 PM  
Blogger coolcol said...

Andrew Wyeth continued in his father's tradition. Newell Convers Wyeth, with his many, many illustrations and paintings, inspired generations. He touched my life from an early age. I grew up remembering the paintings by not knowing the painter. He put up with the disparagement of being called ‘just an illustrator’ as if that isn’t art and of the most democratic kind. N.C. was a pistol fancier too. I have been offered a 1902 Colt Auto he was said to have bought new. The provenance was a little too shaky for that high a price, triple what the pistol was generally worth. I collect his book illustrations instead. We all will recognize his “Cream of Wheat” ads that he did. There were some for Remington also, I believe. Proletariat art, art for the masses, his lessers might sniff. Art from the heart I feel. Andrew, with his representational style, put up with the same criticism. If a painting is recognizable, then there can be a collective sharing of the intent. It will mean the same thing to many people. Abstract art, with no determinable intent, often means nothing to many. God protect people who mean what they say. That is called taking a stand. I often think about that Colt 1902. Could I justify it as an act of homage? Matt

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a toast to the Wyeth clan, Howard Pyle and the Brandywine school. "Just an illustrator" indeed.

7:31 PM  

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