Andrew Wyeth would have been 100 years old in July and probably would have skipped the celebrations and gone out to paint instead. Wyeth died, in 2009, at age 91, at his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. He was buried in Cushing, Maine, the place where he spent his summers and produced many of his greatest works, including Christina’s World.
The US Post Office has put together a page of twelve stamps, to honor Wyeth on his birth centenary. The stamps will be issued on his birthdate, July 12, at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford. Wyeth’s studio was given to the museum by Wyeth’s wife, Betsy. The studio is a National Historic Landmark. The watercolor My Studio is one of the paintings included in the stamp page.
Andrew grew up in the shadow his illustrious father, N.C. Wyeth. N.C. was a very involved, and demanding, father, who nurtured his children’s talents but kept them close to home. He home schooled his children, because he believed that schools were places where “they are pruned into stumps, one resembling the other, absent of grace.”
Andrew was the youngest of five, frail and often sick with bronchitis, so he was kept at home, nurtured by his older siblings, listening to the stories his father illustrated and read to the family. N.C.’s illustrations made him rich and famous and he entertained celebrities like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Douglas Fairbanks and Lillian Gish, while young Andrew withdrew into his own world. “What happened to Pa,” he once said, “was Scott Fitzgerald.”
When he was about fifteen, Andrew was admitted to his father’s studio for formal art lessons. “Pa kept me almost in a jail,” Andrew said, “just kept me to himself in my own world, and he wouldn’t let anyone in on it. I was almost made to stay in Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest with Maid Marion and the rebels.”
Andrew roamed around Chadds Ford, painting the scenery and people around him. His first show, at the Macbeth Gallery in New York, at the age of 20, sold out on the second day and made him a celebrity.
For more than seventy years, Andrew continued to paint the landscape, the people and structures most familiar to him. “Most artists look for something fresh to paint; frankly I find that quite boring.” he said. “For me it is much more exciting to find fresh meaning in something familiar.”
The Intrigue of Wyeth’s Work
On the surface, much of Wyeth’s work looks pastoral and serene. Closer scrutiny reveals themes of loss, regret and often, tension and uncertainty.
The painting Marsh Hawk available in our gallery at the present time, appears to be a tranquil farm yard scene at first glance. Wyeth’s focus, however, is the Marsh Hawk, barely visible, in the background of the painting. Only Wyeth knows why he focuses the viewer’s attention onto the Marsh Hawk, a bird that swoops down on its live prey, tears it to pieces and devours it on the spot.
The public response to Christina’s World was, and still is, a visceral one. It’s a beautiful landscape with a lone figure and a house that seems so far out of reach. The painting, was bought by MoMA in 1948 and is now considered an American art icon.
“I get letters from people about my work. The thing that pleases me most is that my work touches their feelings. In fact, they don’t talk about the paintings.” he said, “They end up telling me the story of their life or how their father died.”
Wyeth produced over 200 works of his neighbor’s caregiver, Helga Testorf, over a period of fourteen years. He did the Hegla Pictures secretly, from 1971 through 1985, without the knowledge of his wife or Helga’s husband. When the pictures, and the story behind them, were made public (by Wyeth’s wife, Betsy, who was also his business manager) it created a public scandal. Both Time and Newsweek did cover stories on the Helga Pictures. Helga became Wyeth’s assistant and caregiver for the remainder of his life and his marriage to Betsy lasted for more than seventy years, until the day he died.
Andrew Wyeth Paintings at the Surovek Gallery
Please contact us if you would like more information about Marsh Hawk or any of the other Andrew Wyeth works available in our gallery.