Sunday, April 13, 2014

Andrew Wyeth's Realism Lives

Andrew Wyeth-The Mill

The more I look at Andrew Wyeth's paintings and drawings I realize I owe him a debt of gratitude for "holding down the fort" of realism and leading the way. Realism lives and it is well.  I appreciate the different styles of art and grown in my taste and appreciation for all kinds of art.

There are those that feel Wyeth's art is not real art but illustration or romanticized Americana.  There has been some polarization by the art world as to who the leaders are, those who fit into the contemporary abstraction definition or contemporary artists like Wyeth. I agree with Mrs. Foster of the Philadelphia Musem "I think we are all grown up (now) enough to realize that there are many roads to modern art, not just one channel." 

His style is recognizable and continues to be popular.  Wyeth and Any Warhol are the most prominent artists of the 20th century.  

Art doesn't have to be contrived with strange looking expressions on peoples faces and symbolism everywhere.  It is OK to just tell your story.

Andrew Wyeth, Wyeth Home
All art has a place and one style is not more important than another although I find for my own work I do more realism. Photography can have different styles depending on how you aim the camera and the editing room with all it's possibilities.

I especially admire Wyeth's use of negative space and detail with his monotone coloration.  It is fascinating to me that he can light with just greys, browns and blacks, little else, creating depth and texture.  It is also encouraging to find that most of his work was done in the confines of his own home and surroundings.
For those that think they need to go to an exotic location Wyeth only visited Europe once and felt his artistic "innocence" could be compromised if he traveled too much.  I believe there is truth in that what you see can affect you.  He may have been speaking of other artists and their work.

Helga Testorf

I got excited when his grand-daughter Victoria Wyeth who gives art lecture/tours on the Wythe family at the Brandywine Museuem made the comment while he was still living, her grandfather had  gotten excited about a tree on his property.

He was not able to go to school with his brothers and sisters because of his delicate health and spent many hours wandering the land around his home developing a love of nature and his surroundings.  Trees and how they appear are important to him.

Nature is often the subject of my camera.  Lately I have questioned myself that what I am doing is too mundane.  Trees are everywhere and a common commodity.  

I can now be assured if Andrew Wyeth can draw and paint the same surroundings and still find new subjects or ways of looking at them I can too.  His work attests to the fact everything has value and beauty.

I like his architecture, he has a strong sense of design and creates wonderful texture with the stone walls, brick chimneys and wood boards.  He incorporates design with areas of contrast  of light and dark shadows on the buildings and landscape.

His buildings and interiors always appear old often with unpainted surfaces and mottling.  He was ahead of his time appreciating the effect of the elements and aging, "rustic" and "vintage" are now quite popular as a photographic style and pervades all art forms.

I love the detail in the foreground above you can see the blades of long uneven grasses, the welding joints and aged metal of the old bucket.  Wyeth said he liked Helga Testorf (the subject of his Helga series) because she wasn't obsessed with organization and clothes.  

There is a naturalness, simplicity to his work  and Helga that causes one to feel comfortable and value older things. The architecture and interiors are spare and beautiful giving the idea that one doesn't have to add on and complicate things, that there is beauty in simplicity.  Helga's hair is never perfect and she wears no cosmetics.

This naturalness contrasts with some of what is being done today.  In American made moves and photography the models often are wearing so much makeup it creates an unreal look even when the style is antique or vintage.  Helga dresses in clothes that are interesting and different without discernible style and regard for high fashion, she is unique and seems to transcend time. 

Andrew Wyeth has inspired many artists along the way and there are a cadre of artists that admire his work and have a similar but distinct style.  In my research I found Doug Brega whom I feel certain has been influenced by Wyeth with his image of an old structure much like New England architecture near the water.  

He has added subtle texture with the shadows on the building and windows, wood siding and wood posts, the shadows leading your eye to the subject.  The sky is not a perfect blue with white clouds but stormy grey, lending to the natural look.

 Doug Brega

I too have been inspired, once I edited my photo file after the shot I was pleasantly surprised to find it was in the style of Wyeth, well maybe not perfectly!  What do you think?  Have you created art that looks like Andrew Wyeth?  Supply a link I would love to see it!

Suzanne Powers Art Gallery: