Wyeth & HighTops

December 30th, 2012

Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Newell Wyeth (/ˈw.ɛθ/ WY-eth; July 12, 1917 – January 16, 2009) was a visual artist, primarily a realist painter, working predominantly in a regionalist style. He was one of the best-known U.S. artists of the middle 20th century.
In his art, Wyeth’s favorite subjects were the land and people around him, both in his hometown ofChadds FordPennsylvania, and at his summer home in CushingMaine. One of the most well-known images in 20th-century American art is his painting, Christina’s World, currently in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.



N.C. Wyeth in his studio with a cowboy model

Andrew Wyeth was the youngest of the five children of illustrator and artist N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth and his wife, Carolyn Bockius Wyeth. He was born July 12, 1917 on Henry Thoreau’s 100th birthday. Due to N.C.’s fond appreciation of Henry Thoreau, he found this both coincidental and exciting. N.C. was an attentive father, fostering each of the children’s interests and talents. The family was close, spending time reading together, taking walks, fostering “a closeness with nature” and developing a feeling for Wyeth family history.
Andrew was home-tutored because of his frail health. Like his father, the young Wyeth read and appreciated the poetry ofRobert Frost and writings of Henry Thoreau and studied their relationships with nature. Music and movies also heightened his artistic sensitivity. One major influence, discussed at length by Wyeth himself was King Vidor’s The Big Parade. He claims to have seen the film which depicted family dynamics similar to his own, “a hundred-and-eighty-times” and believes it had the greatest influence on his work. The film’s director Vidor later made a documentary, Metaphor where he and Wyeth discuss the influence of the film on his paintings, including Winter 1946,Snow FlurriesPortrait of Ralph Kline and Afternoon Flight of a Boy up a Tree.
Wyeth’s father was the only teacher that he had. Due to being schooled at home, he led both a sheltered life and one that was “obsessively focused”. Wyeth recalled of that time: “Pa kept me almost in a jail, just kept me to himself in my own world, and he wouldn’t let anyone in on it. I was almost made to stay in Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest with Maid Marion and the rebels.”
In the 1920s Wyeth’s father had become a celebrity and the family often had celebrities as guests, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mary Pickford. The home bustled with creative activity and competition. N.C. and Carolyn’s five children were all talented. Henriette Wyeth Hurd, the eldest, became a well-known painter of portraits and still lifes. Carolyn, the second child, was also a painter.Nathaniel Wyeth the third child a successful inventor. Ann, was a musician at a young age, then became a composer as an adult. Andrew was the youngest child.

N.C. Wyeth’s guidance

Wyeth started drawing at a young age. He was a draftsman before he could read. By the time he was a teenager, his father brought him into his studio for the only art lessons he ever had. N.C. inspired his son’s love of rural landscapes, sense of romance and artistic traditions. Although creating illustrations was not a passion he wished to pursue, Wyeth produced illustrations under his father’s name while in his teens.
With his father’s guidance, he mastered figure study and watercolor, and later learned egg temperafrom his brother-in-law Peter Hurd. He studied art history on his own, admiring many masters ofRenaissance and American painting, especially Winslow Homer.
N.C. also fostered an inner self-confidence to follow one’s own talents without thought of how the work is received. N.C. wrote in a letter to Wyeth in 1944:
“The great men [ ThoreauGoetheEmersonTolstoy] forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of an artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event. I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have no thought of consequences. Anyone who creates for effect — to score a hit — does not know what he is missing!”
In the same letter N.C. correlates being a great man with being a great painter: To be a great artist, he described, requires emotional depth, an openness, to look beyond self to the subject, and passion. A great painting then is one that enriches and broadens one’s perspective.
In October 1945, his father and his three-year-old nephew, Newell Convers Wyeth II (b. 1941), were killed when their car stalled on railroad tracks near their home and was struck by a train. Wyeth referred to his father’s death as a formative emotional event in his artistic career, in addition to being a personal tragedy. Shortly afterwards, Wyeth’s art consolidated into his mature and enduring style.

Marriage and issue

In 1940, Wyeth married Betsy James whom he met in 1939 in Maine. Christina Olson, who would become the model for the iconic Christina’s World, met Wyeth through an introduction by Betsy. His wife, Betsy, had an influence with Andrew as strong as that of his father. She played an important role managing his career. She was once quoted as saying “I am a director and I had the greatest actor in the world.”
Their first child Nicholas was born in 1943, followed by James (“Jamie”) three years later. Wyeth painted portraits of both children. His son, Jamie Wyeth, followed his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, becoming the third generation of Wyeth artists.

“Three Generations of Wyeth Art”

N.C. Wyeth was an illustrator famous for his work portrayed in magazines, posters and advertisements. He also created illustrations for books such as “Treasure Island” and “The Last of the Mohicans.” Andrew would be the role model and teacher to his son Jamie that his father N.C. had been to him. Their story and artistic history is told in James H. Duff’s “An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art.”


On January 16, 2009, Andrew Wyeth died in his sleep in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, after a brief illness. He was 91 years old.


In 1937, at age twenty, Wyeth had his first one-man exhibition of watercolors at the Macbeth Gallery in New York City. The entire inventory of paintings sold out, and his life path seemed certain. His style was different from his father’s: more spare, “drier,” and more limited in color range. He stated his belief that “…the great danger of the Pyle school is picture-making.” He did some book illustrations in his early career, but not to the extent that N.C. Wyeth did.
Wyeth was a visual artist, primarily classified as a realist painter, like Winslow Homer or Eakins. In a “Life Magazine” article in 1965, Wyeth said that although he was thought of as a realist, he thought of himself as an abstractionist: “My people, my objects breathe in a different way: there’s another core — an excitement that’s definitely abstract. My God, when you really begin to peer into something, a simple object, and realize the profound meaning of that thing — if you have an emotion about it, there’s no end.”
He worked predominantly in a regionalist style. In his art, Wyeth’s favorite subjects were the land and people around him, both in his hometown of Chadds FordPennsylvania, and at his summer home inCushingMaine.
Dividing his time between Pennsylvania and Maine, Wyeth maintained a realist painting style for over fifty years. He gravitated to several identifiable landscape subjects and models. His solitary walks were the primary means of inspiration for his landscapes. He developed an extraordinary intimacy with the land and sea and strove for a spiritual understanding based on history and unspoken emotion. He typically created dozens of studies on a subject in pencil or loosely brushed watercolor before executing a finished painting, either in watercolor, drybrush (a watercolor style in which the water is squeezed from the brush), or egg tempera.

Christina Olson

Christina’s World (1948)
Museum of Modern ArtNew York City

It was at the Olson farm in Cushing, Maine that he paintedChristina’s World (1948). Perhaps his most famous image, it depicts his neighbor, Christina Olson, sprawled on a dry field facing her house in the distance. Wyeth was quite inspired by his neighbor, who, because of an unknown illness resulting in her inability to walk, spent much time on the property surrounding her house.
The Olson house has been preserved, renovated to match its appearance in Christina’s World. It is open to the public as a part of the Farnsworth Art Museum.
Wyeth created nearly 300 drawings, watercolor and tempera paintings, mostly in a palette of gold, charcoal, brown and blue. Because of Wyeth’s popularity, the property was designated a National Historic Landmark in June 2011.
A short distance from the house near the water is the Hathorn family cemetery which includes the burial place of Christina Olson, her brother Alvaro and Andrew Wyeth. In a 2007 interview, Wyeth’s granddaughter, Victoria, revealed he wanted to be buried near Christina and the spot where he painted Christina’s World.

Kuerner’s Farm

Also in 1948, he began painting Anna and Karl Kuerner, his neighbors in Chadds Ford. Like the Olsons, the Kuerners and their farm were one of Wyeth’s most important subjects for nearly 30 years. Wyeth stated about the Kuerner Farm, “I didn’t think it a picturesque place. It just excited me, purely abstractly and purely emotionally.”
The Kuerners’ farm is available to tour through the Brandywine River Museum, as is the nearby N. C. Wyeth House and Studio; in 2011, the farm was declared a National Historic Landmark, based on its association with Wyeth.

Helga paintings

Main article: The Helga Pictures

Braids (1979), portrait of Helga Testorf

In 1986, extensive coverage was given to the revelation of a series of 247 studies of the German-born Helga Testorf, whom Wyeth met while she was attending to Karl Kuerner at his farm. Wyeth painted her over the period 1971–85 without the knowledge of either his wife or Helga’s husband, John Testorf. The paintings were stored at the nearby home of Frolic Weymouth, his student and good friend. Helga, a musician, baker, caregiver, and friend of the Wyeths, had never modeled before, but quickly became comfortable with the long periods of posing, during which he observed and painted her in intimate detail. The Helga pictures are not an obvious psychological study of the subject, but more an extensive study of her physical landscape set within Wyeth’s customary landscapes. She is nearly always portrayed as unsmiling and passive; yet, within those deliberate limitations, Wyeth manages to convey subtle qualities of character and mood, as he does in many of his best portraits. This extensive study of one subject studied in differing contexts and emotional states is unique in American art.
In 1986, millionaire Leonard E.B. Andrews (1925–2009) purchased almost the entire collection, preserving it intact. Wyeth had already given a few Helga paintings to friends, including the famousLovers, which had been given as a gift to Wyeth’s wife.
The works were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in 1987 and in a nationwide tour.
In a 2007 Interview, when Wyeth was asked if Helga was going to be at his 90th birthday party, he said “Yeah, certainly. Oh, absolutely” and went on to say “She’s part of the family now, I know it shocks everyone. That’s what I love about it. It really shocks ‘em.”

Other main works

  • Inspired by Winslow Homer’s watercolors, Wyeth painted an impressionistic watercolor, Coot Hunter, about 1933. There he experimented with the “fleeting effects of light and movement”.
  • Public Sale, made by Wyeth in 1943, is one of his first tempera paintings.
  • After N.C. Wyeth’s death, his work began to take on a melancholic tone. Wyeth painted Winter 1946of a boy, rolling down a hill, his hand reaching out. The location of the work was the other side of the hill where his father had died and represented the unsettling, free-falling sense of loss.
  • Brown Swiss made in 1957 is one of many paintings he made from the 1950s to the 1970s of Karl and Anna Kuerlner’s farm in Chadds Ford. The painting is named after the Brown Swiss cows in the picture.
  • In 1958, Andrew and Betsy Wyeth purchased and restored “The Mill,” a group of 18th-century buildings that appeared often in his work, including Night Sleeper (1979). Brinton’s Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
  • Garret Room was begun in watercolor and finished with the drybrush technique. This work was made in 1962.
  • Wyeth began to add portraits in the 1960s, such as Up in the Studio made with drybrush in 1965 of his sister Carolyn.
  • In works such as The Patriot, a portrait of Ralph Cline, Wyeth looked beyond the surface to understand who he was painting. Cline was an interesting gentleman 71 years of age, of Native American heritage and Maine humor. He wore a big hat and overalls and chewed tobacco. It was through painting him, though, that Wyeth understood that, beneath his humor and hard countenance, Cline was a warm-hearted veteran of great dignity and intellect.
  • When Christina Olsen died in the winter of 1969, Wyeth refocused his artistic attention upon Siri Erickson, capturing her naked innocence in Indian Summer (1970). It was a prelude to the Helga paintings.
  • Ring Road made in 1985 reflects the earth tones that Wyeth used throughout his career.

Critical reaction

Wyeth’s art has long been controversial. He developed technically beautiful works, had a large following and developed a considerable fortune as a result. Yet there has been conflicting views of his work by critics, curators and historians about the importance of his work. Art historian Robert Rosenblum was asked in 1977 to identify the “most overrated and underrated” artist in the 20th century. He provided one name for both categories: Andrew Wyeth.
Admirers of Wyeth’s art believe that his paintings, in addition to their pictorial formal beauty, contain strong emotional currents, symbolic content, and underlying abstraction. Most observers of his art agree that he is skilled at handling the media of egg tempera (which uses egg yolk as its medium) and watercolor. Wyeth avoided using traditional oil paints. His use of light and shadow let the subjects illuminate the canvas. His paintings and titles suggest sound, as is implied in many paintings, including Distant Thunder (1961) and Spring Fed (1967).Christina’s World became an iconic image, a status unmet to even the best paintings, “that registers as an emotional and cultural reference point in the minds of millions.”
Wyeth created work in sharp contrast to abstraction, which gained currency in American art and critical thinking in the middle of the 20th century.
Museum exhibitions of Wyeth’s paintings have set attendance records, but many art critics have evaluated his work less favorably. Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The Village Voice, derided his paintings as “Formulaic stuff, not very effective even as illustrational ‘realism.’ ” Some found Wyeth’s art of rural subject matter tired and oversweet.
Bo Bartlett, a close friend and student of Wyeth, commented on his teacher’s view of this criticism during an interview with Brian Sherwin in 2008: “People only make you swerve. I won’t show anybody anything I’m working on. If they hate it, it’s a bad thing, and if they like it, it’s a bad thing. An artist has to be ingrown to be any good.” N.C. advised Wyeth to work from one’s own perspective and imagination; to work for “effect” means the artist is not fully exploring their artistic abilities and as a result the artist will not realize their potential.

Museum collections

Andrew Wyeth’s work is located in:

Honors and awards

Andrew Wyeth (right) receiving theNational Medal of Arts from George W. Bush in 2007.

Wyeth was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees.
He also received numerous honorary degrees.

In popular culture

  • Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz (a longtime admirer) often referred to Wyeth in his comic strip,Peanuts.
  • Fred Rogers, of the PBS television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, had a reproduction of a Wyeth painting in the entry of the studio “home”.
  • Tom Duffield, the production designer for the American remake of The Ring (2002), was inspired by Wyeth’s paintings for the look of the film.
  • M. Night Shyamalan based his movie The Village (2004) on paintings by Andrew Wyeth.
  • The director Philip Ridley stated that his film The Reflecting Skin (1990) is inspired in its visual style by the paintings of Wyeth.
  • The Helga series of paintings was the inspiration for the 1987 album Man of Colours by the Australian band Icehouse.
  • In the “Springfield Up,” 2007 episode of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns has a painting of Christina’s World in his den, except he is pictured instead.
  • In his autobiography Man With A Camera, cinematographer Nestor Almendros cites Wyeth as one of the inspirations for the look of the film Days of Heaven.
  • In the graphic novel series Preacher (comics), issue 43 is named after the painting of Christina’s World The painting is also referenced throughout the series.
  • The street names of the neighborhood of Thunder Hill, in the village of Oakland Mills in the city ofColumbia, Maryland, are derived from the paintings of Wyeth.

See also


  1. ^ “Andrew Wyeth”. inogolo. 2006—2011. Archived from the original on April 30, 2011. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  2. James H. Duff, An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art, Boston, 1987, Little Brown & Company, ISBN 0-8212-1652-X, pp. 33—34
  3. An American Vision, p. 38
  4. Gallagher, T (2007). “How to Share a Hill”Senses of Cinema (Senses of Cinema) (43).
  5. An American Vision, p. 43
  6. ^ Michaelis, D (2003) [1998]. N. C. Wyeth: A Biography. New York: HarperCollins. p. 504.ISBN 0-06-008926-1.
  7. Kimmelman, Michael (January 16, 2009), Andrew Wyeth, Painter, Dies at 91, New York Times, retrieved August 21, 2010
  8. Lawson, D (2004). Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children. Broadway Books. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0-7679-0904-4.
  9. ^ Duff, An American Vision, p. 42
  10. Meryman, R (May 14, 1965). “Andrew Wyeth”Life Magazine: 93. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  11. “Andrew Wyeth”Wyeth Center. Farnsworth Art Museum. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  12. An American Vision, pp. x—xi, 57
  13. ^ “Artist Andrew Wyeth dies at age 91″Delaware Online (Gannet). January 16, 2009Original link, now not working, washttp://www.delawareonline.com/article/20090116/NEWS/90116003
  14. ^ Sletcher, M, ed. (2004). New England. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 63. ISBN 0-313-33266-5.
  15. ^ Holson, Laura M. (August 11, 2011), A Stroll Through Wyeth’s Giverny, New York Times, retrieved August 21, 2011
  16. Lieberman, Paul (July 18, 2007), Nudity, explosives and artLos Angeles Times, retrieved August 21, 2011
  17. ^ Duff, An American Vision, p. 120
  18. ^ “Brandywine Museum”.
  19. ^ “AMERICA’S GREAT OUTDOORS: Secretary Salazar Designates 14 New National Historic Landmarks, 06/30/2011″. Doi.gov. June 30, 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
  20. ^ Duff, An American Vision, p. 123
  21. ^ Monday, Aug. 18, 1986 (August 18, 1986). “”Andrew Wyeth’s Stunning Secret,” ”Time”, Monday, Aug. 18, 1986″. Time.com. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
  22. ^ Andrew Wyeth’s Helga Pictures: An Intimate Study, Traditional Fine Arts Organization
  23. “Andrew Wyeth”The Collection. Museum of Modern Art. 2010. Retrieved April 21, 2011Source for the information was Grove Art Online, copyrighted by Oxford University Press
  24. ^ “National Register Information System”National Register of Historic PlacesNational Park Service. 2010-07-09.
  25. Adams, H (June 26, 2006). “Wyeth’s World”Smithsonian Journal (Smithsonian Institution). Retrieved April 21, 2011.
  26. ^ Duff, An American Vision, p. 121
  27. ^ Daniel Grant, “When the pens of critics sting,” Christian Science Monitor, 1/8/99, Vol. 91, Issue 30
  28. ^ “Art Space Talk: Bo Bartlett,” Myartspace, 12/8/2007
  29. ^ “The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Collections: Andrew Wyeth”.
  30. ^ “Whitney Museum of Art”.
  31. ^ “Cincinnati Art Museum”.
  32. ^ “Smithsonian American Art Museum, Andrew Wyeth”.
  33. ^ “Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art”.
  34. ^ “Arkansas Art Center, Ongoing Exhibitions”.
  35. ^ “Two Patrons of America: Andrew Wyeth and George W. Bush”.
  36. ^ “Greenville County Museum of Art”.
  37. Statement on Death of Andrew Wyeth, January 16, 2009, reprinted in Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Vol. 45, No 2. January 19, 2009
  38. “Andrew Wyeth”2007 Medal Winners. National Endowment for the Arts. Archived from the original on April 29, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
  39. ^ “Andrew Wyeth’s Granddaughter Organizes Major Exhibit of His Work at Bates College Museum of Art”. Bates College. October 16, 2000. Retrieved 2011=04-20.
  40. ^ The Art of Andrew Wyeth, Wanda M. Corn, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, p. 95.
  41. ^ Smithsonian.com Retrieved April 21, 2011
  42. ^ “The Ring”. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
  43. ^ “Notes from a Chadds Ford Redneck about “The Village” — Chadds Ford Inspirations”. Archived from the original on October 25, 2009.
  44. ^ The New York Times Film Reviews 1991-199218. New York: Garland Publishing, Incorporated. 1994.
  45. ^ “Music, computers & software: MCS, Volume 3″Music. Keyboards, Computers & Software, Inc. 1988. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
  46. ^ Simpson wikia.com Retrieved April 21, 2011
  47. ^ Great Moments Nestor Almendros Retrieved April 21, 2011
  48. ^ un film de. wordpress.com Retrieved April 21, 2011
  49. ^ Preacher #43 – Christina’s World (comic book issue). Comic Vine (October 7, 2011). Retrieved on May 8, 2012.
  50. ^ Kellner, Barbara.“The Neighborhood of Oakland Mills”, columbiamaryland.com, Retrieved May 30, 2009

Further reading

  • Autobiography by Andrew Wyeth, Bulfinch Press,USA ISBN 978- 0821222171
  • Meryman, R.: Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life, HarperCollins 1996. ISBN 0-06-017113-8.
  • Meryman, Richard. ‘(May 1, 1998) ‘Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life. Paperback, 464 pages. Harper Collins Publishers ISBN 978-0-06-092921-3ISBN 0-06-092921-9.
  • Meryman, Richard. (July, 1991) “The Wyeth Family: American Visions.” National Geographic.
  • Mongan, A.: Andrew Wyeth: Dry Brush And Pencil Drawings, Little Brown & Co (T) 1966. ISBN 0-8212-0170-0.
  • Wyeth, A.: Andrew Wyeth: Autobiography, by Thomas Hoving (Contributor), Andrew Wyeth (Contributor), Bulfinch Press 2007. ISBN 1-56852-654-7.
  • “Andrew Wyeth: Self-Portrait – Snow Hill”, authorized documentary, Chip Taylor Communications, 60 min, 1999, VHS ISBN 1-57192-356-X
  • “Andrew Wyeth: Self-Portrait – Snow Hill”, authorized documentary, Chip Taylor Communications, 60 min, 2003, DVD ISBN 1-57192-557-0
  • “Andrew Wyeth: Autobiography” by Thomas Hoving (Contributor), Andrew Wyeth (Contributor)

External links

Andrew Wyeth painting en plein air at his Cushing, Maine farm

Name Wyeth, Andrew
Alternative names
Short description Realist painter
Date of birth 1917-7-12
Place of birth Chadds FordPennsylvaniaUnited States
Date of death 2009-1-16
Place of death Chadds FordPennsylvaniaUnited States
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