Andrew Wyeth is a contemporary American painter; he is the youngest child of N.C. Wyeth, and the father of Jamie Wyeth, both artists as well. Wyeth is a master of water color and egg tempera media, which he uses to create vibrant portraits and landscapes. His work is heavily influenced by the pastoral landscapes of the Brandywine River valley and the Maine coast where the Wyeth clan lived.

Andrew was born in 1917 into a magical family. He was the youngest of five children, four of whom grew up to be artists themselves (the fifth, an engineer). His father, N.C. was perhaps the most famous student of Howard Pyle's Wilmington School of art, and was a masterful artist in his own right. N.C. encouraged all of his children to explore their creativity and imaginations in their rural home, often encouraging his children to produce plays about pirates and Robin Hood. (And more often than not, N.C. joined in the fun!) Andrew had no formal schooling, but took up graphic arts like his father, showing talent at a very young age. Mentored both by his father and by his sister Carolyn, Andrew's early work was in water color featuring the landscapes he thrived in. He gained his father's ability to create realistic and lively scenes along with some of his sister's tendency to brood, a tendency which perfectly matched the dark woods, stone walls and often leaden skies of rural Pennsylvania. Andrew was later introduced to the egg tempera medium by N.C.'s young apprentice, Peter Hurd. The rest is history. Since the start of his career, his paintings have been some of the most sought-after works by an American artist.

His most famous piece is probably Christina's World featuring Christina Olson, a handicapped woman lying on her side, gazing up at a Maine farmhouse she is unable to reach. He has several other well known paintings, often featuring the landscapes of his life and his neighbors; for example, Snow Hill shows several neighbors dancing around a maypole on Karl Kuerner's Hill (Kuerner's Hill itself was another favorite landscape subject, as in the famous Evening at Kuerner's). One of his largest series of paintings were his "Helga Pictures", featuring his redheaded, pig-tailed neighbor Helga Testorf in both landscapes and portraits. He painted over 200 images of Helga between 1971 and 1986, which created a bit of a sensation when they were first displayed in public -- they were the first exhibition at the National Gallery of Art by a living artist. For his contributions to American art, he received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1990, the first artist to be so honored.

Wyeth married Betsy James in 1940 when he was 22 (she was 18). They had two sons: Nicholas (in 1943) and Jamie in (1946). Nicholas went on to be an art dealer, while Jamie became a well-known painter in his own right. Andrew still paints, dividing his time between Pennsylvania and Maine. His work is featured at several museums around the country. The Brandywine River Museum in Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine both have extensive collections of Andrew's work, despite being well outside major metropolitan areas. The former (which I've often visited) is well-worth your time.

Updated May 31, 2002


Everything2 editor's note: Andrew Wyeth died in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, on January 16, 2009

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