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Associated Press
Wyeth at the Kuerner Farm in 1964.

Andrew Wyeth Dead at 91: Painted “Christina’s World”

January 16, 2009 05:33 PM
by Isabel Cowles
American painter Andrew Wyeth died in his sleep today at his home in Pennsylvania.

Andrew Wyeth Dies

Andrew Wyeth is considered one of America’s favorite painters. His oeuvre consisted primarily of portraits and landscapes that realistically depicted rural Northeastern scenes. His paintings are often described as subtle and melancholy for their use of neutral, even stark, colors.

His most famous work, “Christina’s World,” depicts a disabled young woman sprawled on a field, gazing up at a house that seems miles away. The figure faces away from the observer and only her twisting torso, windblown hair, pink dress and brown boot are visible.

Critics have called Wyeth’s paintings sentimental, condemned the artist as little more than a regionalist, and alleged that he had no talent. However, such judgments never affected Wyeth’s popularity much. More than 175,000 people viewed a retrospective of his works at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2006: no living artist had ever garnered such large attendance at the museum.

Background Information: Wyeth’s Work

It has been said that Wyeth inherited his artistic talent. His father, Newell Convers Wyeth, was a well-known illustrator who served as his son’s only art teacher.

He spent his entire life in his hometown of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and regularly vacationed along the coast of Maine. The landscapes and people of both areas served as the inspiration and subjects of his work.

Wyeth worked primarily with watercolors as a young artist, though he eventually preferred a technique called egg tempura, which allowed him to achieve a fresco-like texture on a painting when it dried.

His paintings were popular from the outset. The artist was just 20 years old when his father sent a collection of his watercolors to a gallery in New York; it was the midst of the Depression, but the paintings sold out by the second day of the exhibit.

Wyeth continued his prolific career for another seven decades, though his style varied little. His work sold at record prices among museums and private collectors and has been exhibited across the world.

Whether Wyeth’s work is modern or old-fashioned remains a topic of debate among critics who point to parallels between both 19th-century American realists like Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer and the dark, intellectual and emotional spirit of the Abstract Expressionists.

Kathleen Foster, curator of the 2006 Philadelphia exhibit, explained the retrospective was intended “to demonstrate that realism is only the beginning of his method,” she said, “which is so much more fantastic and artful and memory-based than people may have realized. And strange.”

Examples of Wyeth’s paintings can be seen at his official Web site.

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