Sunday, January 25, 2009

Notable Pennsylvanians - Andrew Wyeth

Born – July 12, 1917 Chadds Ford, PA
Died – January 16, 2009 Chadds Ford, PA

Andrew Wyeth was the best known in a family of three generations of artist. His father, N.C. Wyeth, did illustrations for Scribner’s Illustrated Classics such as Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe.His sister, Henriette was a portraitist who is considered on of the great women painters fo the 20th century. His other sister, Carolyn, avoided publicity but has been called the best painter in the Wyeth family and the strongest woman artist in America. His son, Jamie, received his training from his aunt Carolyn and has a style that is clearly influenced by his grandfather’s work.

Andrew was a sickly child who, because of his frequent illnesses, was home schooled. His father recognized and encouraged his artistic talent at a young age, helping him master figure study and watercolor. His brother-in-law, Peter Hurd, later taught him egg tempera That was the only formal training he had. He studied art history on his own.

In 1937, Andrew had his first one-man show at the Macbeth Gallery in New York City. His father selected the paintings from his series of watercolor landscapes of the Maine coast where the Wyeth family spent their summers. When Andrew married Betsy James two years later, she became the driving force of his career and has been said to have been very manipulative with his image, especially concering the Helga Pictures, a series of over 240 paintings and sketches done over a fifteen year period of a Prussian woman he discovered while she was helping care for a neighbor. When this series was first introduced, his wife claimed no knowledge of it since it included many nudes. Later it was revealed that Betsy did indeed know of their existence and was merely generating sensationalism. It worked because newsletter publisher Leonard Andrews bought the entire collection for $6 million in 1986 who resold it to a Japanese collector within a few years for $45 million.

Over the years Andrew used several other friends and neighbors as his models, the Olsons, his neighbors in Cushing, Maine and the Kuerners, his neighbors in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania however many of his pieces contain no people. Andrew himself said his biggest failing was too much subject in this work. Whereas his father’s illustrations were full of action and drama, Andrew’s work contained images of absence, silence, desolation but also expection. He liked to portray fall and winter scenes with the powerful structure of the landscape prominent and a promise of what’s to come lying beneath the surface. Much of his work has a melancholy feel to it that Andrew preferred to call thoughtful.

Although his work is exhibited world-wide, the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford is the place to visit. It’s a converted grist mill that houses hundreds of pieces by three generations of Wyeths. To see more of the landscape that inspired them, watch the movie The Village which was filmed very near Andrew’s studio.


Sandra Cox said...

Great blog!

Amarinda Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amarinda Jones said...

well, there you go...yes, that was me before...had trouble forming words

Anonymous said...


This is a great blog. I only wish I knew so much about art. What a great way to learn, however.

Thank you,


Regina Carlysle said...

I love his work. So talented. There was such a lonely feel to his work.

Anny Cook said...

You do such a lovely job on your "bio" blogs. I hope you'll do more of them. I so enjoy learning about new people.