Monday, January 19, 2009

America's Artist Paints the Bleak into Beautiful

The painter of Christina's World died Friday at the age of 91. Andrew Wyeth, well known realist artist, was known for turning the bleak into beautiful. His work captured the wistful, the solitude, and the overlooked- America and brought it to light and life in a Puritanical sense.

Wyeth was born in 1917, the son to a book illustrator, N.C. Wyeth. He was a sickly child and was schooled at home. Summers, however were a ritual spent in Cushing, Maine.

Hermetically sealed from his father's art style, Andrew started with watercolors but after the death of his father in 1945 in a railroad crossing accident, Andrew delved into painting. Then in 1948, he created his most famous painting, Christina's World, a crippled, withered woman in a pink dress dragging herself up a parched hill toward a weather-beaten Maine farmhouse.

Critics derided his work as drab and dreary while others praised the melancholy as "capturing the heart of America," toasted Richard Nixon at a White House Dinner in 1970.

When Christina's World was staged at the MoMa Museum in 2007, the label read:

The woman crawling through the tawny grass was the artist's neighbor in Maine, who, crippled by polio, "was limited physically but by no means spiritually." Wyeth further explained, "The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless." He recorded the arid landscape, rural house, and shacks with great detail, painting minute blades of grass, individual strands of hair, and nuances of light and shadow. In this style of painting, known as magic realism, everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery.

His other works include the unsettling tempera Winter 1946, Karl (a portrait of
his German neighbor), and Groundhog Day. He often painted the landscape of his familiar home in Pennsylvania-a hilly prairie of dry, parched tall grass blades.

Andrew Wyeth died peacefully in his sleep at the Wyeth Family estate in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.