Andrew Newell Wyeth, Visual artist, Died at 91

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Dead, Andrew Newell Wyeth on January 16, 2009 at the age of 91, he 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.

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 of Robert Frost and the 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 claimed to have seen the film, which depicted family dynamics similar to his own, “a hundred-and-eighty-times” and believed it had the greatest influence on his work.

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 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 on 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.” From the start Wyeth was free and undisciplined.

He either resented opinion or ignored it. Early on he stopped showing anyone his works in the first stages for fear that a discouraging phrase might cause him to abandon the project.

He learned how to fight and finish a picture, for himself, beyond anything.

In art, as well as in life, the artist can become ornery. And he can be maddeningly secretive – so much so that, at times, he becomes the sole worshiper in his own cult.

Unlike most artists of the second half of the twentieth century, Wyeth has never been confused about the direction his work should take, nor has he experienced dramatic transformations of style.

That is not to say that he has not changed. Early in his career he was a proud protagonist of technique and a keen observer of and philosopher about the materials of painting.

Today he argues convincingly that he doesn’t “give a damn” about technique and sometimes tries to lay waste to it.


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