Andrew Wyeth – Painter of the People

One of the most renowned artists of modern times, Andrew Wyeth continues to hold the American public enthrall with his almost photographic quality paintings. Using watercolors and egg tempera to create masterpieces from the familiar people and landscapes that he grew up around, Wyeth has an unmistakable style that infuses emotion into the mundane. Often using shades of gray and brown, his work combines subdued colors with his mastery of shadows to create incredibly detailed portraits and landscapes.

Born in a small town in Pennsylvania called Chadds Ford, Andrew was the youngest child of five. In the third grade he suffered a bad case of whooping cough which left him sickly for much of his childhood. His parents decided to educate him at home at that time and so his father, Newell Convers (NC) Wyeth became his main teacher.

The elder Wyeth was a well known illustrator whose work was featured in many magazines and in other mediums so Andrew was exposed to art from an early age. Seeing the budding talent in young Andrew, his father taught him the basic concepts of drawing and Andrew began working in watercolors. He was to do many watercolor studies of the sea and shoreline while at the family's summer home in Port Clyde, Maine. His first exhibit was of these paintings in 1937.

The success of that first show in New York City launched a career spanning seventy years. By 1950, he was named in Time magazine as one of the greatest American artists. One of his works, "The Hunter", was featured in the Saturday Evening Post. Wyeth paintings hang in museums across the country including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. In 1987, his "Helga" collection was displayed in the National Gallery of Art – the first time they ever exhibited the works of a living artist.

Despite his popularity and many awards, Wyeth's work was and remains a controversial topic among critics. His representational style contrasted sharply with the abstract art that was favored during the twentieth century. Art critics have often said that his work is too close to illustration and too sentimental in flavor. While some critics describe him as a genius, others are hostile and derisive of his work. His most famous painting, "Christina's World", is even deliberately left out of the listings of masterworks for The Museum of Modern Art where the painting hangs.