Friday, January 16, 2009

Andrew Wyeth: Paying Respect To A Fallen Giant

"Master Bedroom" by Andrew Wyeth

"It's a shock for me to go through and see all those years of painting my life, which is very personal for me. It's a very difficult thing for an artist to look back at his work." ~Andrew Wyeth

Today the world lost one of its greatest painters. Andrew Wyeth passed away this morning at the ripe old age of 91. What a full life, and what a gift he shared with us. His artistic opus spans decades. He has given the world some of the most beautiful paintings I have set my eyes upon. Wyeth was a realist painter of the highest calibre, a seeker of truth within the details, a patient draftsman and unwavering devotee to his work. 

There are two books that sit next to my easel. One is a book of Lucien Freud paintings. The other one is an autobiography of Andrew Wyeth. In this book he examines each of his paintings and discusses how and why he did them, impressions and reflections on the pieces etc. It is wonderful to read how his mind works, how he solves problems, mistakes that were made and corrected and the overall emotional impact of the piece on him. 

I use these books as touchstones. They are friends and inspiration never more than an arm's reach away. I might not look at them for months, but they are there, a constant reminder of what can be accomplished with hard work and dedication. I am more influenced by Freud from a technical standpoint and Wyeth touches me on a more emotional level. Freud is the man of nudes, and I rarely paint the nude figure. Clothes are more mysterious to me anyway from a symbolic standpoint. Freud is unrelenting, a genius of colour and paint application and his work ethic is simply second to none. 

Wyeth however, scratches an altogether different creative itch. He is a man of emotion...yet hidden emotion; subdued, just out of reach. His paintings of solitary figures striding across snow-covered landscapes are truly haunting. There is a melancholia that pervades his work, a wistfulness and an echo of times past that we can see through rusty doors, the chipped paint of a windowsill, the tattered lace of a curtain blowing in the wind. At times I find his work so poignant that I cannot look at it for long, it brings to the surface my natural inclination to ruminate and I have to keep that in check. 

Here are three paintings from my work that are strongly influenced by Wyeth: 

"Back Stairs, Oil On Canvas, 36"x24"

"The Rasberry House", oil on canvas, 15"x30"

"Rob, Drifting", oil on canvas, 48"x36"

Technically his work is unsurpassed. I personally adore his watercolours but his tempera pieces are beyond measure. Even if I could paint that well, I have not the patience for the unbelievable details that he achieves. Truly his work is timeless. I love how his figures rarely look right at the viewer. His compositions are fantastic with a lovely balance through negative space. The seemingly arbitrary loose brushstrokes in some of his studies are far from haphazard. They serve to provide texture and movement to his work.

"Farm Road" by Andrew Wyeth

I could speak all day about this man who has shaped me as an artist over the years. Although I never met him, we are connected. His work resonates with me on a metaphysical level. I too seek to paint absence, to paint what lies beneath the expression, to create a world just out of sight. Thank-you Andrew Wyeth. Although you are gone, your work will continue to reverberate within myself and so many others. 

"I get letters from people about my work. The thing that pleases me most is that my work touches their feelings. In fact, they don't talk about the paintings. They end up telling me the story of their life or how their father died."~Andrew Wyeth

On another note, Bravo! Canada filmed a special profiling my work in 2007. It will be airing on Bravo! Channel all across Canada on Monday, February 9th at 8:30am Eastern Standard Time.  I hope you are able to catch it! It is on at an odd time but thank goodness for PVRs.

Dwell in possibility,


1 comment:

Robert Carter said...

You write as beautifully as you paint.