I grew up with art. My grandfather was a professional illustrator for magazines and other publications, and my mom worked in oils and won several judged shows during her life. I began drawing and painting at a young age, as did my brother. Also, there were always books containing photographs of famous works of art lying around our house, and as an avid reader, I loved pouring through these as a child. I even ended up marrying an artist!
I still love looking at paintings, sculptures, and other works. I suppose my favorite American artists are Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer. I love the clean lines and the subdued palette of Wyeth’s paintings, along with the simple subjects. I also find the light and shadow in his paintings amazing. Wyeth’s works have a powerful emotional quality that’s hard to explain.
Andrew Wyeth was born in 1917 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the son of a professional illustrator, N.C. Wyeth. Andrew wasn’t a healthy, robust child. He was often ill and had to miss school. When he suffered a bout of whooping cough, his parents decided to take him out of school and teach the boy themselves.
The Wyeths instructed young Andrew in all the normal subjects, plus art education. Even at a young age, Andrew showed artistic talent. He began with sketching and working with water colors, and later, he learned to paint with egg tempera. Wyeth often painted rural landscapes and portraits of people he knew, both in Pennsylvania and in the family summer home in Maine. He is considered a regionalist in style.
Andrew Wyeth had his first art show when he was only twenty years old. It was held at New York City’s Macbeth Gallery. Wyeth’s works were the only ones in the exhibition, and every painting was sold.
This is Wyeth’s most famous painting. Christina’s World was done in 1945 and depicts Christina Olson, the painter’s neighbor in Cushing, Maine. Christina was crippled by an illness and couldn’t walk, and she spent much of her time lying in the grassy fields of the farm that surrounded the family’s home. The Olson’s house can be seen in the background of the painting. It’s been restored and is now part of the FarnsworthArt Museum.
One thing I like so much about Wyeths's paintings is that I can make up narratives in my head about his subjects. With Roasted Chestnuts, for example, I imagine this teenage boy has gathered chestnuts from his farm and is roasting them in a metal drum by the roadside in order to earn some Christmas money.
Around the Corner
Around the Corner
This is one of my favorite Wyeth paintings. Around the Corner reminds me much of my grandmother’s home – a white clapboard farmhouse with flowers planted next to it. Notice how stark are the differences in the white of the house with the dark shadows.
I have an affinity for lighthouses, so it’s no surprise that Easterly is one of my favorite Wyeth paintings. Look at the detail – even the pickets in the white fence are painfully detailed. I also like the clouds, the shadows, and the rough texture of the lighthouse exterior.
I actually did an acrylic painting of this same lighthouse, but mine is from a different view. And of course, my painting is by no means comparable to Wyeth’s - except in subject matter!
Wind from the Sea
Wind from the Sea
I love Wind from the Sea. You can practically feel the ocean breeze coming off the water as it caresses the sheer curtains at the window. I can immerse myself in this painting so much that I can practically smell the salt air as I imagine myself in a rustic New England seaside cottage. A glimpse of the water can just be seen from the window.
Wyeth's Death and His Legacy
In November of 2007, Andrew Wyeth received the Medal of the Arts from President George Bush. Sadly, just a little over a year later, Wyeth died. He was 91 years old.
During his lifetime, Wyeth was one of the most collected artists to ever have experienced such acclaim while they were still living. Although his paintings are often considered "too sentimental" by some art critics, the American public loved Wyeth's work. In fact, he's often referred to as the "Painter of the People."
I find it fascinating that a man with only a third grade formal education, no high school diploma, no formal art training, and no college could so mesmerize the art world and the public. His artistic genious transcends the norms for requirements of successful modern artists.
Wyeth's son, Jamie, is continuing the family legacy with his paintings. Jamie Wyeth's portrait of John F. Kennedy is one of the most famous ever painted of the former president.
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