Monday, January 19, 2009

Andrew Wyeth - America's Artist

Early Friday morning artist Andrew Wyeth died in his sleep. He was 91. Wyeth portrayed the hidden melancholy of the people and landscapes of Pennsylvania's Brandywine Valley and coastal Maine in works such as "Christina's World" and "Groundhog Day." He died in just the sort of weather he loved, the empty cold and the sharp sunlight of the dead of winter.

Wyeth was born on July 12, 1917 in Chadds Ford, PA. His father was N.C. Wyeth, famed painter and illustrator. It was in Maine that Wyeth found the subject for “Christina’s World,” his best-known painting. And it was in Pennsylvania that he met Helga Testorf, a neighbor in his native Chadds Ford who became the subject of the intimate portraits that brought him a wave of public attention in 1986. The “Helga” paintings, many of them full-figure nudes, came with a whiff of scandal: supposedly Wyeth had not even told his wife, Betsy, about the more than 200 paintings and sketches until he had completed them in 1985.

Although the art world has had mixed feelings about Wyeth's work since the 1950s, he has been referred to as "America's Artist" by the Baltimore Museum of Art. A Wyeth retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2006 drew more than 175,000 visitors in 15½ weeks, the highest-ever attendance at the museum for a living artist.

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