Adrew Wyeth – Simple yet Complicated Modern American Painter is Dead at 91

We have all seen dozens of images from the three generation of Wyeth painters. The Elder, N.C. Wyeth, helped shape my childhood memories with his realistic illustrations for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, Treasure Island and others. As I grew older Andrew took center stage for me and he pushed his father’s style a little further. Andrew wanted to go beyond being known as “an illustrator” and in my humble opinion succeeded. His father allowed him to move through phases and then pull back again, which gave him courage and experience. Andrew had strong academic training but did not allow that to dominate his body of work, which is quite fluid.

Snow Flurries, 1953, Tempera 37¼ x 48 in.

In the book, The Two World of Andrew Wyeth: A Conversation with Andrew Wyeth by Thomas Hoving, they discuss Snow Flurries painted in 1953. The subject is a very simple hill that Andrew walked nearly everyday which makes it extremely difficult to paint, yet a wonderful challenge. On the surface it appears to be a simple work, but the more you inspect it, the more details emerge. Mr. Wyeth describes this paradox in the interview.

I don’t agree with the theory that simplicity means lack of complexity. I feel that the simpler the thing, the more complex it is bound to be. I’ve found that some of the simplest people are very profound and actually very complex… Well actually, this picture is to me a whole lifetime. It summarizes an awful lot. That’s really what interests me. What I was after is what you get after sugaring off maple sugar from the maple tree. You keep boiling it down until you have the essence of purity. That is what I was after. I’m not saying it’s all that pure or good, but I did want it be be all the hills but yet a very definite hill

Mr. Wyeth elected to sell many of his works in a massive deal with a Japanese investor, and live the rest of his life outside the public eye. His works can be found in great museums all over the world. He’s gone now, which always causes me to seek out the work, knowing there will be no more.

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