Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

We celebrate the life, family and legacy of an enduring American icon—one whose infatuation with his beloved Brandywine Valley never waned.

Museum Must-Do

On Saturday, Jan. 31, the Brandywine River Museum will introduce the region to the late Andrew Wyeth’s best-known work, Christina’s World (pictured), on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It will join the Brandywine River Museum’s 38 other Wyeth watercolors and oils. PLUS: Every hour beginning at 10 a.m., the documentary Self Portrait: Snow Hill will roll through Wyeth’s life as he knew it best, featuring such mementos as family photos, home videos and personal letters. Free. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Route 1, Chadds Ford. Call (610) 388-2700 or visit brandywinemuseum.org.
 


Wyeth’s World

Main Line Today’s Catherine Quillman reflects on the artist’s life as she came to know it. By Catherine Quillman

As a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, Main Line Today contributor Catherine Quillman covered the arts and culture in the Brandywine Valley. Her career included interviews with the Wyeth family and a cast of Andrew Wyeth’s intimates, from the models for his work to his biographer, to the former caretaker of the family homestead. These conversations were bookended by two interviews with Wyeth himself, in 1993 and 2006. Below is her reflection.
 
I heard about Andrew Wyeth’s death in the early morning when I was awakened by a voice on my answering machine telling me that he had “passed on.” The message was from a friend of a friend whose late mother had worked as Wyeth’s housekeeper for over 30 years. I bring up that connection only because Wyeth seemed to inspire Chester County’s own version of the “six degrees of separation.” I don’t have to read every entry of the Brandywine River Museum’s remembrance blog to know that there was something about Wyeth that made us want to come forward and share every anecdote about him.

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Wyeth certainly was not your run-of-the-mill celebrity artist, but neither was he an artist who could call his admirers “his collectors” or his fan base. His unusually close relationship with the locals and regular folk was due, perhaps, to the fact that he was the only American artist to have painted entirely in two places: Chadds Ford and around his summer home in Maine.

For the full story, click here.
 


Judging Wyeth

For more than 70 years, his work has pleased regular folks and divided critics.
By Mark E. Dixon

Andrew Wyeth was not like you and me. When we were young and thought life would go on forever, we squandered our time on videogames or cartoons. Wyeth painted. When we realized that our names were also on death’s list, we wallowed in pick-your-decade nostalgia. Wyeth painted. When we got bored with the spouse, we … Well, hopefully, we did nothing. But Wyeth convinced Helga Testorf to get naked. And then he painted.

On the anti-Wyeth side is an entrenched corps of critics like Peter Schjeldahl of The New Yorker who, in 1987, famously wrote: “Wyeth isn’t exactly a painter. He is a gifted illustrator for reproduction, which improves his dull originals.”

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He also called Wyeth “a regional reproof to all aspects of urbanity.” Regional—which is to say, “minor, not world-class; OK for fooling the rubes.”

Wyeth heard this sort of talk for much of his life. Success provided partial compensation, but the artist admitted that negative criticism still hurt. It “really knocks you flat,” he told one writer, “like a stiff haymaker to the midsection.”

For the full story, click here.
 


The Other Wyeth

Anyone can be an artist, but not all art is good.
By Mark E. Dixon

Odd pairings are legendary. There’s Bill and Hillary. Jimmy Carter and his beer-drinking brother, Billy. And then there was Andrew Wyeth and his brother, Nat. One was an artist famed for his depictions of the parched winter landscapes of Maine and Chadds Ford. The other was responsible for much of the litter that mars those landscapes—and most others, as well.

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Nathaniel Wyeth, an engineer who spent his career with DuPont, invented the plastic soda bottle. That’s the bottle—patented in 1973—whose manufacture requires 1.5 million barrels of oil annually and has only a one-in-five chance of ever being recycled.

During his career, Wyeth invented or was the co-inventor of 25 products and processes in plastics, textile fibers, electronics and mechanical systems. In 1986, he was elected to the Plastics Hall of Fame. He also was a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

“Very seldom do [ideas] come out of nowhere,” Wyeth told Kenneth A. Brown, author of Inventors at Work, in the 1980s. “It’s usually a culmination of one thought after another that leads to a solution and a complete understanding of the problem.”

“Complete” in his eyes, perhaps.

For the full story, click here.
 

Our Best of the Main Line Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!