Andrew Wyeth, American Master
Andrew Wyeth, (American, 1917-2009)
American watercolorist and worker in egg tempera noted primarily for his realistic depictions of the buildings, fields, hills, and people of his private world.
Wyeth’s father, N.C. Wyeth, was a well-known illustrator who had studied under Howard Pyle and who, starting in 1932, served as his son’s only teacher. Andrew Wyeth’s first exhibition was in 1936 at the Art Alliance of Philadelphia, but his first important New York City show took place in 1937 at the Macbeth Gallery.
The show was an instant hit and every painting was sold. The subject matter of Wyeth’s pictures has come almost entirely from two localities, the Brandywine Valley around Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and the area near his summer home in Cushing, Maine. Wyeth’s technical resources are remarkable. His work displays a strong linear quality, and within his limited palette—consisting mostly of earth tones—he achieves a subtly extensive range of colour.
His paintings are precise and detailed, yet he moves them beyond photographic naturalism by imbuing them with a sense of subjective emotion. His best-known painting, Christina’s World (1948), achieves a note of melancholy in its depiction of a polio victim seemingly trying to climb up a hill. This work also exemplifies his use of unusual angles and his mastery of light. Between 1971 and 1985 Wyeth secretly painted Helga Testorf, his neighbour in Chadds Ford, creating hundreds of images of her, including nudes.