Andrew Wyeth b. 1917
- Andrew Wyeth
- signed Andrew Wyeth, u.r.
- tempera on panel
- 22 by 34 1/4 in.
- (55.9 by 87 cm)
- Painted in 1984.
Acquired by the present owner directly from the artist, 1995
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum, Andrew Wyeth Gallery, May-November 1989
Jackson, Mississippi, Mississippi Museum of Art; Greenville, South Carolina, Greenville County Museum of Art, Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends, February-August 2001, illustrated
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Anne Classen Knutson writes, "Wyeth's weathered and worn but enduring objects have much in common with their owners. Many of Wyeth's models were outsiders, misfits who lived on the outskirts of society and endured physical disabilities, mental illnesses, and poverty. Wyeth identified with them. 'I don't fit in,' he once remarked. 'I pick out models who are misfits and I'm a misfit'" (Andrew Wyeth, Memory and Magic, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2006, p. 47). For most of his childhood, Andrew Wyeth felt like an outsider. The youngest of N.C. Wyeth's five children, a larger than life, charismatic character, Andrew was frail and prone to illness. A bad hip inhibited him in his activities with other children and he noted feeling like a 'cripple.' Wyeth was home schooled, which added to his feelings of isolation. His best friend and constant companion, David "Doo Doo" Lawrence, a young African American boy, was one of the few people outside the Wyeth home with whom he socialized.
Doo Doo introduced Wyeth to another side of Chadds Ford, the small African American community nestled in between Andrew's family home and Kuerner's Farm. Mother Archie's church, with windows painted to look like stained glass, was the epicenter for this small population in the rural Pennsylvania hills. Richard Meryman writes, "Andrew often slanted right and headed downhill into a small community of blacks, living in one of the small enclaves set aside by the Quakers after the civil war...Staying close to their land, usually available and amenable, they were another of Andrew's hidden away realms—impoverished survivors with their own special dignity, but ignored and misunderstood in his white world...Andrew approached them with the fixed attention of a grown-up child, free of superiority and sociology. Growing up with Doo-Doo, accepted as 'Lil Andy', he had been allowed access to this culture so foreign to his own" (Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life, New York, 1996, p. 186).
Andy Davis was a member of this close knit Chadds Ford African American community. His mother-in-law, Susie Winfield, worked for the prominent Atwater/Cleveland family, and posed for Wyeth in 1955. Othaniel Winfield, Susie's son, also posed for Wyeth. Othaniel, his sister Genevieve, and Andy (her husband), shared a two-family house that their mother had been given by her employers. The Winfield house was host to many Sunday dinners following services at Mother Archie's and Wyeth and his wife Betsy were frequent guests for the elaborate meals of fried chicken, sweet potatoes, biscuits and gravy.
Davis posed for Turtleneck in 1984, the year before he died. Wyeth recalled this sitting stating, "while Andy posed he kept up a lively conversation about the people and places where he had worked. His favorite stories referred to World War I and shore leave" (Close Friends, p. 154). Davis' expressive face and sparkling eyes are animated; his missing teeth and weathered face speak to the hardships he has endured during his lifetime.