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Andrew Wyeth died a few days ago, in his sleep at his home in Chadd’s Ford, Penn­syl­va­nia. He was 91.

By coin­ci­dence, just a cou­ple of weeks ago I had din­ner with a friend in Mor­tonville, Penn­syl­va­nia, about 15 miles from Chadd’s Ford. So I’ve been think­ing about Wyeth the last few days.

Here’s a bit of what the New York Times has to say in its obit­u­ary:

Wyeth gave Amer­ica a prim and flinty view of Puri­tan rec­ti­tude, starchily sen­ti­men­tal, through parched gray and brown pic­tures of spooky frame houses, des­ic­cated fields, deserted beaches, cir­cling buz­zards and craggy-faced New Eng­lan­ders. A vir­tual Rorschach test for Amer­i­can cul­ture dur­ing the bet­ter part of the last cen­tury, Wyeth split pub­lic opin­ion as vig­or­ously as, and prob­a­bly even more so than, any other Amer­i­can painter includ­ing the other mod­ern Andy, Warhol, whose milieu was as urban as Wyeth’s was rural.

All of what the main­stream press has to say about him is pretty much mean­ing­less. The obit­u­ar­ies relate mostly to the busi­ness of build­ing Wyeth’s pub­lic per­sona, a con­struc­tion that cre­ated mass audi­ences and even­tual sales of well over a $1 mil­lion for each major paint­ing. That was good for Wyeth inso­far as it made him and his fam­ily very rich and pushed his work into the pub­lic eye, where it could be exco­ri­ated by crit­ics who had no abil­ity to com­pre­hend it.

As far as I’m con­cerned, Wyeth was the eas­ily the most impor­tant artist of the 20th cen­tury. In part that’s because of his tow­er­ing skill: his abil­i­ties with regard to tech­nique, form, com­po­si­tion, and ren­der­ing were com­pa­ra­ble to the finest artists in his­tory. But that is of course only part of the story, as many past artists with supe­rior tech­ni­cal skills but the absence of great­ness have demon­strated. Beyond his tech­ni­cal skill was his abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate his com­plete immer­sion in what he chose to paint. Crit­ics liked to com­plain about his sen­ti­men­tal, dreary sub­ject mat­ter, his “fecal” palette, his obses­sion with detail, the repet­i­tive nature of his work (as if what they liked was any less repet­i­tive), his unapolo­getic ded­i­ca­tion to an Amer­i­can visual tra­di­tion, and (most impor­tant in the mod­ern art world) the com­plete absence of irony in his work.

None of that mat­ters. Wyeth was utterly in love the places and peo­ple of a few small parts of Penn­syl­va­nia and Maine, and he knew how to con­vey that love. He wasn’t inter­ested in work­ing with any other sub­ject mat­ter, in any other way than what felt right to him, no mat­ter what the crit­ics or any­one else said. That kind of love, with the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate it, is what all good paint­ing is about.

A few quotes:

One’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes.”

I love to study the many things that grow below the corn stalks and bring them back to the stu­dio to study the color. If one could only catch that true color of nature—the very thought of it dri­ves me mad.”

God, I’ve frozen my ass off paint­ing snow scenes!”

God­speed, Andrew.

Posted in artists, the art world.

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2 Responses

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  1. Anna Meenaghan says

    Just came across your arti­cle on Wyeth and wanted to say how true all the things you wrote are. The press only ever shows the side that they think is of impor­tance. The real­ity is how­ever very different.

  2. Maler Hamburg says

    A painter and dec­o­ra­tor is a trades­man respon­si­ble for the paint­ing and dec­o­rat­ing of build­ings such as houses, and is also known as a dec­o­ra­tor or house painter. We can find some nice pic­tures in http://​www​.fir​mal​i​tos​.com

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