Andrew Wyeth is one of the foremost American artists of the twentieth century. He is a painter in the American tradition, capturing the people and landscapes of his country on canvas.
Born in 1917, Andrew Wyeth was one of five children born to N.C. Wyeth, the well-known illustrator, and Carolyn Bockius. The family lived in Pennsylvania; Wyeth's painting was certainly influenced by the regional art traditions of the area. The Wyeth family was highly creative. Wyeth was mostly home-schooled and did not attend any college or university. He also did not receive any formal artistic training, but his parents recognized and nurtured his talent.
Growing up between the World Wars, Andrew Wyeth came of age in a bleak period of history. Artists of his generation were turning inwards, unable to make sense of the world around them. For many, this meant exploring an Abstract Expressionist style in which all forms and figures are lost. Wyeth adopted an entirely different style although, like his artistic peers, his art was private and subjective. His paintings demonstrated the anxiety and isolation felt by the common American. His style was realistic; he portrayed rural themes, landscapes and figures in shades of brown and grey. He used mostly water-colors and tempera to paint. Despite the realism of Wyeth's work, the influence of Abstract Expressionism can be seen in his unusual compositions and juxtapositions.
Wyeth held his first exhibit in 1937 in the town in which he was living, Port Clyde, Maine. Two years later, he married Betsey James. The couple developed a creative partnership which certainly guided and influenced Wyeth's work. The couple, with their two sons, spent their winters in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and their summers in Cushing, Maine. These rural environments are frequently represented in Wyeth's work.
In 1943, The Saturday Evening Post used Wyeth's The Hunter as its cover. At this time, Wyeth began to gain national recognition. Wyeth rose to greater fame in the 1950s and 1960s, despite the fact that his style differed greatly from that of the abstract painters making headlines at the time. His realistic and haunting style resonated with the mood of the American people. In 1963, Wyeth became the first artist to be nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Wyeth's most famous model and subject of numerous works was Christina Olson. Following her death, Wyeth painted Helga Testorf for over a decade. He created over 240 studies of this model. These images, known as the Helga Suite, are perhaps the best known and most loved of Wyeth's works.
In 1990, Wyeth was the first artist to win the Congressional Gold Medal. His body of work had a great impact on his generation and it still resonates with modern audiences.