The great American painter Andrew Wyeth died at his home in Chadd's Ford, Pa. this morning. He was 91 years old. Wyeth was the son of illustrator N.C. Wyeth, famous for his illustrations for "Treasure Island" among other works, and the father of painter Jamie Wyeth. Works by all three Wyeths are housed in a wonderful building called the Brandywine River Museum, near the Wyeth home in Chadd's Ford.
Without a doubt, Andrew Wyeth's most famous work is "Christina's World" (above). It depicts a handicapped young woman pulling herself through a field toward a farmhouse in Maine. In the 1980's Wyeth was in the spotlight when his "Helga" paintings and sketches were first seen. The works were done over a 15 year period. The model was Wyeth's Chadd's Ford neighbor Helga Testorf. The existence of the work was unknown to that point, even to Wyeth's wife.
Andrew Wyeth was largely reviled by other painters, gallery owners, and museums. The Metropolitan Museum of Art had an opportunity to display the "Helga" paintings and refused to do so. The Washington Post critic savaged Wyeth's abilities when the paintings were displayed at the National Gallery. Wyeth was not on the cutting edge. He was apparently too popular with the average American for the liking of the art world's elite.
I have always loved Andrew Wyeth's work. To me it speaks of a more innocent time in America. My grandparents had a wonderful coffee table book of Wyeth's paintings. When they died, it was one thing I asked if I could have. I still have it today, and look at it often. I think of them when I do. Today, Andrew Wyeth has joined them in a better place, and this world is a little more empty.