Andrew Wyeth

Born 1917. Died 2009.
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Andrew Wyeth Biography

Andrew Wyeth was born on July 12, 1917 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Both son and pupil to his father, the successful illustrator Newell Convers Wyeth, he began studying art at a young age, as poor childhood health necessitated that he be educated at home. The Wyeth family alternated their time between Chadds Ford and the area of Cushing, Maine, and both locales feature prominently throughout the artist’s oeuvre. Wyeth showed an early aptitude for painting, and was given his first solo exhibition by the Macbeth Gallery in New York City in 1937 at the age of twenty; showing mostly works done in watercolor on paper, the show sold out. As his technique developed, Wyeth began to increasingly use tempera in addition to watercolor, a technique that has been credited with the severe, bleak, and even nostalgic atmosphere present within much his work.

Wyeth gained widespread acclaim when the Museum of Modern Art, New York, purchased what is widely considered his most famous painting Christina’s World, 1948, in 1949. It depicts the artist’s friend Christina Olson, whose body had been ravaged by polio, leaving her unable to walk, and, instead, have to drag herself with her arms. She is shown in a field in the process of pulling herself back to her Maine farmhouse. Typical of Wyeth’s work, it displays a heavily charged atmosphere that has been the subject of much interpretation. Although some critics have disparaged Wyeth’s work as being prosaic, he is still considered by most to be one of the great masters of American painting. As the artist himself explained his popularity once, “It’s because I happen to paint things that reflect the basic truths of life: sky, earth, friends, the intimate things.”

Along with MoMA, numerous other major museums count Wyeth in their collections, including the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland Maine; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and the Brandywine River Museum, in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where the artist died at the age of 91, in 2009.

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Artist Image: Time Life Pictures