thursday, november 26, 2015
The Wyeths

I just saw the Andrew and Jamie Wyeth exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Curated by Timothy Standring, it is an amazing show of the work of these two men.  Many years ago, I lived in Philadelphia. I used to enjoy just exploring the area. It was on one of these explorations that I discovered the Brandywine River Museum. At that time, Andrew’s studio was not open to the public. No matter; the museum and grounds were breath-taking. I fell in love with the Wyeth’s and their work. What an amazing lineage…NC, Andrew, and Jamie. In later years, I learned that several artists I was drawn to had studied with NC. 
Some contemporary painters say they have no interest in the Wyeth’s and their type of “realism”. What they often don't get is that Andrew and Jamie are incredibly adept at abstraction in their realism. Their subject matter is not necessarily of the beautiful, but the mundane, the everyday. And, they make it beautiful. Or at least to me, they do. 
“I’m not interested in quiet, placid landscapes. Nature is not lyrical and nice.”
Andrew Wyeth
Years ago in a used bookstore, I discovered a treasure, as I often have in used bookstores. It was a paperback book called, “Dog Days”, by Jamie Wyeth. It is full of amazing portraits and studies of dogs. The images are accompanied by the artist’s own words about his work and the importance of his dogs in his life. The work is fresh and unlabored, yet with the background in drawing and abstract design that makes his paintings so alive. Okay, yes, realistic. But so much more. He sees dogs as they are and as they behave; not in a glorified or “cutesy” way. Not surprisingly, my favorite paintings in the Denver show were Jamie’s dogs, birds, and other animals. The compositions are so unique and clever. Seeing the texture of the paint in person made them really come to life. 
Both works above from “Dog Days”, Jamie Wyeth
Painting and detail from the Denver exhibit, Jamie Wyeth.
I prefer animals to people. I don't mean that in an anti-social way, but it's the truth. I also prefer paintings of animals over people. Although I've always said that subject matter isn't important for a painting to be good, these paintings are definitely better because of the animals. And even more so, because of the way he paints them.
When I was living in Philadelphia back in the 80’s, I took a painting class with an art professor named John Cederstrom, who also taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. I was a novice then, but he once told me that my paintings at the time reminded him of Andrew Wyeth. I have never forgotten that compliment and am honored to have been compared to such a giant in the art world. My work has changed since; a little less realism. But, I could learn so very much from the Wyeth’s.  Jamie, for me, really pushed the boundaries of his world of realism beyond his father. But Andrew showed Jamie the way. 
“Wyeth:  Andrew and Jamie in the Studio” runs through February 7 in the Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum.  

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