Andrew Wyeth 1917-2009
- Andrew Wyeth
signed Andrew Wyeth (lower right); also titled Jacklight on the reverse
- tempera on panel
- 43 1/2 by 49 3/4 inches
- (110.5 by 126.4 cm)
- Painted in 1980.
Kuze Gallery, Japan
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1987
Paris, Galerie Claude Bernard, Andrew Wyeth, Temperas, Aquarelles, Drybrush, Dessins, December 1980-January 1981, no. 17, illustrated
Nagoya, Japan, Aichi Prefectural Museum; Tokyo, Japan, Bunkamura Museum of Art; Fukushima-City, Japan, Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art; Kansas City, Missouri, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Andrew Wyeth: Autobiography, February-November 1995, p. 120, illustrated p. 121
Tokyo, Japan, Bunkamura Museum of Art; Nagoya, Japan, Aichi Prefectural Museum; Fukushima, Japan, Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art, Andrew Wyeth: Emotion and Creation, November 2008-May 2009, no. 31, p. 151
Gary Reynolds, "Previews: American Paintings, New York," Art + Auction, December 1982, p. 83
Gary Reynolds, "American Paintings," Art + Auction, December 1982, p. 82
Sharon G. Hoffman, Experiencing Art at The Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina, 2005
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Andrew Wyeth is best known for his masterful tempera paintings capturing the landscape and inhabitants that surrounded him in Pennsylvania and Maine. Painted in 1980, Jacklight exemplifies the artist's skillful combination of medium, composition, and subject to create a unique sense of place. As the artist described his pictures: "Oftentimes people will like a picture I paint because it's maybe the sun hitting on the side of a window and they can enjoy it purely for itself. It reminds them of some afternoon. But for me, behind that picture could be a night of moonlight when I've been in some house in Maine, a night of some terrible tension, or I had this strange mood. Maybe it was Halloween. It's all there, hiding behind the realistic side" (Michael Kammen, "Andrew Wyeth: Resonance and Dissonance" in Unknown Terrain: The Landscapes of Andrew Wyeth, 1998, pp. 204-5). The present work depicts a serene moment with a golden-hued deer in the setting autumn sun, tentatively foraging for food under a weathered, crow-like tree. Wyeth knew this deer well, "I knew that local hunters were out trying to catch deer with their headlights. It's called deer jacking – totally illegal. There was a deer hanging around our property eating windfall apples, and it was almost a pet. I had made a study of the deer eating one of these apples. The next day I went up to Karl Kuerner's barn and found the deer there. It was strung up, gutted, with its nose almost touching the floor, and the apples I'd seen the deer eating the night before seemed to have mixed with the blood" (Andrew Wyeth to Thomas Hoving, Andrew Wyeth: Autobiography, 1995, p. 120).
Wyeth's fascination with his surroundings and mastery of the tempera medium creates an image of quiet, enigmatic beauty. The artist was introduced to the medium by Peter Hurd, a young painter from New Mexico who came to Pennsylvania in 1924 with hopes of studying under the artist's father, N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945). Hurd became a mentor to the then six-year-old Andrew, and later married his sister, Henriette. Wyeth said of Hurd's fascination with tempera, "He had read up a good deal about it and in a sense he was responsible for bringing the technique back into use in this country. He gave me a terrific grounding in the medium ... I think the real reason tempera fascinated me was that I loved the quality of the colors: the earth colors, the terra verde, the ochers, the reds, the Indian reds, and the blue-reds are superb ... I've been blamed from time to time, for the fact that my pictures are colorless, but the color I use is so much like the country I live in ... tempera is something that I can truly build ... There's no limitation. The only limitation is yourself ... It all depends on what you have in the depth of your being..." (Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Oslons, 1976, pp. 34-35).
In Jacklight, Wyeth weaves intricate layers of tempera to create a richly patterned surface that mimics the texture of the earth with unfailing realism. Wyeth was an ardent admirer of the writings of Henry David Thoreau, who's love of nature and its relation to the human condition pervades much of Wyeth's work. In 1961, Wyeth observed of his work, "If what I'm trying to do has any value at all, it's because I've managed to express the quality of the country which I live in ... So what is important about my pictures, I feel, is a sort of organic thing of country ... being able to express it symbolically" ("Interview with George Plimpton and Donald Stewart," Horizon Books, vol. 4, 1961, pp. 88-101). Jacklight exquisitely depicts the artist's mastery over his medium, as well as his awareness of the beauty and harshness of both mother and human nature, and the ultimate sense of wonder created in such compelling and contemplative images. The critic and author Thomas Hoving writes, "He discovered the light and atmosphere of the out-of-doors ... until [this time], he used the light as 'moods of light' rather than as totally accurate and perceived light. In the early eighties it may be that Wyeth finally came to grips and made a proper compromise with 'impressionism' of his youthful years ... and acquired an interest in light as color and tangible substance ... the light is at the same time illumination, color, atmosphere, structure, and emotion" (Andrew Wyeth: Autobiography, 1995, p. 14).