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Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009

Post #1279 • January 21, 2009, 11:25 AM • 6 Comments

Andrew Wyeth died this past Friday. Terry Teachout has a fair take on him in the WSJ. I reviewed his 2005 exhibition at the Boca Museum.




January 21, 2009, 1:57 PM

Terry Teachout is a true cultural omnivore who understands and writes about just about anything interesting that comes up in art, film, music, literature and theater and maintains a delightful web site full of commentary and wonderful bits and pieces of often long neglected things now preserved on Youtube or otherwise. He also has, in publication or already published, a biography of Louis Armstrong.

Unfortunately I must disagree with him about Wyeth. Wyeth was at his best when he was tightly realistic and obsessively detailed, not when being "expressive" and painterly. He was no good at that. This came home to me when I saw the big Wyeth show at the Whitney some years ago, and rather surprised me because I assumed I would like the sketchy stuff better. I didn't.

All the talk about sentimentality and subject matter is really beside the point in the long run. What counts is how it's done. Wyeth can be compared to another "sentimentalist" who came from many of the same sources - Norman Rockwell - and Rockwell comes off better as a painter. Of course Rockwell thought of himself as an illustrator and did not bother with proving himself with loose rendering, as far as I know. Maybe that's just as well.



January 21, 2009, 3:47 PM

Opie and I have gone back and forth on this before, but I have a higher opinion of Wyeth than he does (obviously, from the link), and the Rockwells I've seen in person have been as anemic as a vegan leech.



January 21, 2009, 7:11 PM

I'll give you credit for "anemic as a vegan leech" but please understand that I do not consider Rockwell a great artist, only a very competent one. And Wyeth not a bad artist, only one with deep deficiancies disguised by excruciating detail and a "dark" attitude toward subject matter

There is a sense pf desperation about Wyeth's work, a feeling that he wanted to be a great artist but somehow knew he wasn't, hence the claims to "abstract" and the feckless sketches and the obsessions. But it is the sour aridness of the looser work that opens up enough to give him away.

If you disagree, so be it.



January 21, 2009, 9:29 PM

I was really moved by reading the obit in the Times. My mother loved Wyeth, and my family came from Maine - my parents would see him now and then socially. I realized that he got it about painting, about abstraction and paint and looking. I could never really like him because he seemed so popular and middlebrow and I needed to outgrow that, but I'm much more accepting now, and he didn't give a shit anyway. It couldn't have been easy being N.C.'s son.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2009, 11:30 AM

I wrote about a show of Andrew Wyeth's drawings and sketches at Gagosian a couple of years ago. (Warning: Link also contains John Currin!) I liked what I saw there. Then on my most recent trip to MoMA I saw "Christina's World" and found it flat and lifeless, like an illustration. It actually looks better in reproduction, I think, which may account for its popularity.


Bob Ragland

January 27, 2009, 4:15 PM

Wyeth did what he wanted to do.
No critic can speak longer or louder than the public.

Andrew Wyeth out lived a lot of the critics.

No critic has ever written me a check so I could heat and eat.
I am critic proof on purpose.

That's my story and I am sticking to it.



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