Are you a Seagull
or an Eagle
Andrew Wyeth 1917-2009
Andrew Wyeth died Friday, on January 16, 2009, at 91 years of age. He quietly influenced many artists, in fashion, out of fashion, he was always respected in his trade. His stately presence and the possibility that he would add to his list of creations was a comfort to many artists as we continue daily to add to our own. I didn't know him; I don't create like him but his lone individual course, like an Eagles, was one I drew strength from, so because of this, lets take a moment to honor him.
I first became aware of Andrew Wyeth in the mid-60’s he had created a picture called “Christina’s World” which was a powerful realistic painting of Christina Olsen, a Maine resident with polio, crawling through a field toward her farm house and barn. The picture a purchase by MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, in New York, stood distinctly against the avant guarde art trend of the period.
Many an art discussion of that time pitted non-objective or abstract art against Wyeth’s realism. Jealously, many artist’s attributed Wyeth’s stunning style to being only a facial technician. AOL in their on-line article on Wyeth stated that New York Times critic Hilton Cramer said; he didn't think Wyeth could paint at all. As a true artist and innovator Andrew Wyeth simply went his own way following a path that lead to painstaking realism and introspection. It’s his introspection and detailed analysis that Wyeth performed, in his paintings, that I believe will live for centuries to come.
After some college studies I opened an Art Gallery in New Jersey and as it had two store owners before and having been a music shop I inherited the musicians and the previous store owner. They used to drop by with guitars and banjos pulling up in a 1938 Chystler convertible. Very much into the free form of the late 60’s, still 'Beat', not Hippie, they would play a little Blue Grass; one of the instrument cases always carried the Sangria Wine.
Chet, the former store owner, had moved his musical repair shop into his nearby house and in this little work room and there I first learned about N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth’s father.
N C. Wyeth was the illustrious illustrator of such books as “Treasure Island”, and there on Chet's wall was ‘the pirate with cape’, the original painting, as illustrated in the book. And the collection also included another 3 or 4 original N. C. Wyeth’s and another 3 or 4 original paintings by Howard Pyle. Howard Pyle being the great illustrator, a generation before N. C. , and N. C. Wyeth’s teacher.
N. C. Wyeth was a big robust man who had 5 children, They lived in Chadds Ford Pennsylvania and the family summered in Maine. All the children were trained in art, by N. C., two daughters and Andy became professional artist’s. Henrietta married Peter Hurd who made the presidential portrait of Lyndon Johnson that he hated. Henrietta, also a portrait painter painted Pat Nixon.
It’s interesting to note that Andrew being rather frail was mostly home schooled in a time before that became popular. He described his family life as being rich in the sense of opportunity to learn and the support and love that went with it. You can just imagine Christmas with N. C. Wyeth as Kris Kringle must have been a real event.
The Wyeth’s were pretty regular people from what I read but years ago, while on a Med. Cruse in the Navy. I started a painting onboard using the subject of the ships block and tackle and two of the deck crew over by the rail. I knew both of those guys. One named ‘Smitty’ was pretty quite and to himself. As the painting progressed I was rummaging around in the Drafting Shop, where I was assigned, and found a book on Andrew Wyeth. Both men had come down to the Drafting Shop, I said, “look at this I found a book on Andrew Wyeth, do you know about this Artist". Sure said Smitty I used to see Jamie (Andrew Wyeth’s Son, also an Artist) down at the garage all the time, he likes to work on cars. And that painting there of the girl in the grass, “Christiana’s World” was always hanging unframed over Andy’s fireplace.
Christina's World can still can be seen at MOMA, the Museum of Moder Art in New York City.