Seattle and Portland recently hosted two excellent Wyeth exhibits. There is much to say about both but I’d like to focus on the Seattle Art Museum’s impressive In Retrospect - Andrew Wyeth, Oct 19th - Jan 15th. There was not just quantity but also great variety of work in terms of media and subject matter.
There’s a mystical quality to AW’s work I find very compelling. I think he had a wonderful cinematic eye that tells a story of silence and space, of passing time, and of life and death itself.
The nearby people and places in his life deepen this story in a heartfelt way. I was moved by drawings and paintings of Christina Olsen as she aged, and also lost the man most important to her in life. Wyeth’s portraits of regular working people, drifters and loners are straightforward and show great empathy. He documents their life over time in a series of drawings and paintings that are also refreshing experiments in graphite, watercolor, goauche and other media.
One portrait that stands out in my mind is that of Helga painted in tempera that is timeless. If there were a Mona Lisa of American painting, for me, this would be it.
Andrew Wyeth was a prolific and unique artist. His spare use of color, texture, composition, excellent draftsmanship, and blurring of abstraction and realism bring to life a vision of the world that is imaginative, intense and engaging. If possible run, don’t walk, to an Andrew Wyeth exhibit!