Iconic American Artist, Andrew Wyeth

February 1, 2021

There are many artists who inspire me when I see their work. They make me stop, stare and in many cases, take my breath away. They make me want to be a better artist, and continually develop my craft. One of my top favorite artists is American painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009). A visual artist and realist painter, one of the best known American painters of the mid-20th century.  His favorite subjects were the land and people around him from his hometown of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and his summer home in Cushing, Maine.  Weyth was the first artist to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. In 2007 he received the National Medal of Arts from George W. Bush.

One of Weyth's most icon paintings is of Christina's World.  His young neighbor Christina Olson who suffered from Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease, a genetic polyneuropathy,  and had lost the use of her legs. Weyth painted her as she painfully pulled herself along up the hillside on her arms.

Andrew was the youngest of five children born to NC Wyeth, the great Illustrator and his wife Carolyn Bockius Weyth.  Andrews father famous for his illustrations, posters, advertisements and illustrations for “Treasure Island,” “Robin Hood,” “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Robinson Crusoe,” which sold millions of copies, N.C. Wyeth became a role model, teacher and inevitable point of comparison in Andrew’s pursuit of his own career as an artist. Another generation later, life would repeated itself when Jamie, Andrews son, followed his father as an artist.  Weyth learned to be a proficient draftsman before he even learned to read well. By his teens, he was doing illustrations under his father’s name. Nevertheless, he resisted the goal that his father had for him of becoming an illustrator.

His paintings differed from his father’s; N.C.’s work was full of action and drama. Andrew’s work often had no people in it. He often painted snowy landscapes under leaden skies, an abandoned house, a wedding tent in an empty field, fishermen’s nets hung to dry in the breeze: images of absence, eerie silence, abandonment, desolation but also expectation. One of his famous paintings was a God’s eye view of soaring turkey buzzards. Another showed an empty dory on a beach.  

Young Andrews life was forever changed when his father and nephew were tragically killed in a car accident. Andrew later described everything after that time was different as though "his eyes were open"

Wyeth main mediums for his painting were watercolor and egg tempera. With watercolors Weyth used a dry brush technique in which he squeezed most of the moisture and pigment out of the brush before applying it to the paper. Building up layers in this way, he was able to create richly complex effects. In the late 1930s, his sister's husband, Peter Hurd introduced Wyeth to egg tempera that he would use and master throughout his long career.  Though he was greatly influenced by other American painters, like, Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper, Wyeth maintained his own distinct style of realism.