American art has lost a giant. A painter who celebrated the rural landscapes of Maine and the Brandywine River Valley region of Pennsylvania, and whose memorable nude figurative series “Helga” stunned the art world in the 1980s, Andrew Wyeth has died at the age of 91.
You can read an excellent obituary in the Washington Post written by Bart Barnes. An excerpt from the article is particularly apropos for this blog, since Wyeth’s passing comes on the heels of a recent post I published about the abstract expressionists. My realism-loving readers will appreciate this:
“A household name in the national artistic community since the middle years of the 20th century, Mr. Wyeth rose to prominence in the same period in which the abstract expressionist painters of the New York School were establishing their mark as the mainstream artists of the era.
His work was different. The abstract expressionists did non-representational compositions, characterized by what they said was a spontaneous and self-expressive application of paint. They often worked in bright and flowing colors with flamboyant brush strokes.
Mr. Wyeth painted in pale colors, lighter shades of brown, red, yellow and black, and the shapes and objects in his pictures were concrete and easily recognizable. Houses looked like houses and people looked like people”
Wyeth resisted the fleeting trends and intense crazes of the art world. Instead, he painted the subjects which inspired him, in the style he chose, and, as a result, left us with works that are sensitive, sincere and timeless – untethered to fads, gimmicks, and the pretentious intellectualism of the elitist art community. He simply followed his pure artistic heart.
This is arguably Wyeth’s most famous, and most evocative, work. From 1948, this is Cristina’s World:
Rest in peace, Andrew.