Monday, December 21, 2015

Andrew and Jamie Wyeth Art Exhibition

Last week I went with my artistic friend Lotus to the Denver Art Museum to see its current exhibitionWyeth: Andrew and Jamie in the Studio.   Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) was a major American artist, perhaps best known for his 1948 painting Christina's World which now hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  

Andrew Wyeth was the son of the artist and illustrator N.C. Wyeth, and Andrew's son Jamie (1946- ) also became a well known artist. 

Lotus and I were impressed by the show and learned many things from viewing it. 

For instance, we met Siri.  We had to laugh when we ran into this portrait; how cool to put a face to Apple's ever helpful Siri. Well, actually, this is Siri Erickson, a neighbor of Andrew's who often modeled for him during the 1970's. 

She's portrayed in a fairly straightforward, don't you think?  Beautifully executed with a great composition and fine brushwork, but not particularly surprising.   But we quickly realized that Wyeth could be very surprising.

Look at the unusual birds' eye view used in Wyeth's The Hunter, done in 1943 as a cover for the Saturday Evening Post.

Jamie's work was equally interesting.   Check out the composition and background of this image which he painted in the 90's.  The figure is offset to the left and the eye isn't sure whether to focus on the man or the spears.  It is drawn upwards by the thin vertical lines of both yet finds nothing in the upper part of the image on which to rest.  The contrast of the gold background and the blue uniform also compete for attention.  Despite the simple almost abstract shapes there is much for the eye to take in.

In another of Jamie's painting we come eye to eye with this herd of Angus cattle.  

A bit menacing, don't you think? 

This ram, the focus of Jamie's painting The Islander, was arresting.

 Here's a detail of the brushwork.

When he painted the sheep in the painting shown below he actually squeezed the paint right onto the canvas from the tube to capture the texture of the wool. 

The unwavering stare of the sheep's eyes is unnerving.  This menacing quality is found in many of both Andrew's and Jamie's works.  

Here's Jamie's work, The Inferno.  It looks like hell, doesn't it?   Painted in 2005 it's actually a depiction of someone burning garbage at on Monhegan, a remote island in Maine.

Both father and son also painted works that are surreal or magical in feeling.  Here's Lotus taking a closer look at the brushwork in Andrew Wyeth's 1990 painting Man and the Moon. 

This was not a comprehensive view of the artistic output of the three generations of Wyeth men, from NC. to Andrew to Jamie.  The role of nudes in their artwork was barely touched on and the Andrew's famous series of paintings of Helga was just mentioned.  The focus of the show was on the artistic relationship of Andrew to his son Jamie.

But seeing even a limited selection of images from this incredible family left me with an overwhelming sense of their innate talent.   Oh, to have been born with such a genetic predisposition to draw and paint!  But then I read this panel.

I realized that even the Wyeth's talent had to be developed with constant practice.   And that even such practiced and talented artists acknowledged that it was this understanding of technique that allowed them to break away from it and work instinctively.    It was a good reminder to me as I struggle with perfecting my quilting techniques.

As a final note about this exhibit, let me show this painting which Andrew did in the final years of his life.   I found it very inspiring that he could do this kind of work well into his late 80's.


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