PHILADELPHIA—American painter Andrew Wyeth died in his sleep on January 16 at the age of 91, reports Bloomberg. Wyeth was among the country's most celebrated living artists, although his realist, figurative paintings of rural life in Pennsylvania and Maine split critical opinion at a time when Abstract Expressionism was at the fore. Wyeth had his first solo gallery exhibition at William Macbeth Gallery in New York in 1937; he went on to have solo shows at museums around the country and the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where his 1976–77 exhibition was the institution's first devoted to a living artist. He painted his most famous work, Christina's World, in 1948; the picture was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art for $1,800 the same year. He was honored by Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and George W. Bush.
As an art student years ago we began many painting classes with photo-realism. A form of high class paint-by-numbers in which the painter does a transparent graph over of a photograph and a corresponding graph on a prepared canvas to transfer the photographic image to a painted surface using the two graphs as guidelines. I felt like a middle-man in a bad transaction, so I became the school's first photography major which saved me from the painting-by-numbers technique as well as the horror of later classes in modern art painting classes. But I continued to paint on my own.
Pouring over books about the great painters, both historic and current, I rediscovered Andrew Wyeth and his artistic family including his father, N. C. Wyeth, who had filled my head and soul with his illustrations that accompanied my favorite childhood books such as The Yearling, Treasure Island, Last of the Mohicans and Robin Hood. This research allowed me to learn their techniques to incorporate in my own painting. Once discovered by my professors, my paintings led to many lectures about painters such as Andrew Wyeth being anti-art, anti-artist and various phrases that boiled down to painters of that ilk being bourgeois. Professors and critics ridiculed them as mere illustrators, not serious artists such as Kandinsky or Rothko or the great Marcel Duchamp.
A short time ago, for no known reason, I spontaneously purchased paints and brushes and began to paint again for my own reasons. I will miss the "time" I spent with Andrew Wyeth when I studied late into evenings his techniques and thought patterns, but mostly his love of history, nature and the interpersonal relationship between art and life.