Andrew Wyeth

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The Baltimore Museum of Art exhibited the works of ‘America’s best-loved and best-known artist’ in 1996, the exhibition was an instant success owing to the fact that the artist in question was the one and only Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth was not just ‘America’s artist’, he was fondly referred to as the artist who ‘caught the heart of America’ by none other than Richard Nixon. He was the people’s artist, and a diehard self-proclaimed abstractionist painter who at times drew much criticism to his work. Despite the main element of abstract being present in his work, he still drew lots of supporters because of the strong realism inhabited in his work. He was also scorned due to his reclusive nature – Wyeth didn’t like living in the public eye that much and rarely gave interviews. Whilst some called him one the greatest painters of the 20th century there were also those who considered his work as over-rated.

Andrew Newell Wyeth was born on July 12, 1917 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania into a family dynasty of painters. His father N.C. Wyeth was a famous illustrator who did the cover art of some famous books including The Last of the Mohicans and Treasure Island. There are some who believe that Wyeth drew a flack of criticism due to his privileged upbringing, rather than struggling and working hard like other great artists Wyeth was born with a silver spoon which is difficult to digest by some people. Wyeth’s style was another factor that didn’t resonate well with certain art critics and lovers; it was marred in rural bleakness, vagueness, and was quite dry. Much of Wyeth’s paintings were homage to his strong Pennsylvanian roots with some of his paintings exhibiting the vast land of Pennsylvania. Wyeth was a painter who considered art as a means of depicting his emotions, which were usually gloomy and gray. It was also noted that Wyeth often showed – via his paintings – a dull and dim America complete with farms, deserted beaches, desiccated homes and fields. It wasn’t the picture of America certain people wanted displayed at all. Regardless of his haters, Wyeth still received a number of accolades in his life; he was the first artist to receive the Presidential Free Award (America’s highest Civilian award) by John F. Kennedy. He was also the only living artist to have a live exhibition at the White House. Wyeth’s sense of realism and style is captured gloriously in his epic masterpiece Christina’s World. Deeply inspired by the summer holidays he spent with his family in Maine, the central figure of the painting is Wyeth’s neighbour who was crippled by polio. The figure is seen as crawling towards a farm house at a distance in a lone field. Wyeth attempted to catch the positive spirit of his neighbour who was at a disadvantage physically but was mentally very strong and positive. It was these emotions that Wyeth was trying to display in Christina’s World.

Similarly in his painting the Wind from the Sea, Wyeth has managed to capture the wind blowing the lace curtains beautifully. As the name suggests the painting is simply a window with white lace curtains offering an overview of a field with the slight hint of a lake on the left side. Some would argue there is nothing extraordinary about the painting but some would say that Wyeth has exhibited a natural glow in the painting; especially the way the curtains are moving making them seem almost real. No doubt an artist who divided people, Wyeth’s work is remarkable in every sense.

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