Andrew Wyeth (1917 – 2009)

Kweiseye is an art criticism blog written by Tom Kwei. If you enjoy this article, browse the archive HERE for more than 60 other critiques of both artists and exhibitions. Any questions/queries/use: tomkweipoet@gmail.com

As a Realist of Regionalism whose scenes hold great nostalgic qualities in spite of their empirical display, Andrew Wyeth’s art is always beautiful and oft inquisitive, regularly prodding at ideas of perspective and space. Both these featured images show his hallmark attention to detail, with each holding a visual quirk that helps to centre and propel the image.

‘Soaring’ – 1950

andrew-wyeth-soaring

A sight as wonderful as it is rare within painting, Wyeth takes us upward with the birds as we pass over a small farm residence surrounded by a milky nothingness. In the classic Wyeth manner, the animals are evoked with an astonishing eye. The central bird in particular being given real grace in the detail, with its pitch strokes on the left wing resolving to a complex mess of feathers amid the right. A further vulture’s undertow blazes a stunning delicate silver against the unseen hanging sun.

The canted angle of the birds drifting inward from the left and the tiny house down below creates an interesting level of visual disorientation from the off. The height is felt immediately and impressively, with the dulled vista of the background keeping our attention fully with those that are soaring.

Whilst criticisms of lack of pictorial ambition are often volleyed at Wyeth, praising his technique but deriding his message, I think this piece in particular achieves a profound sense of serenity outside of a direct message. Through placing such rampantly connotative animals as vultures above such an innocuous setting, Wyeth robs them of their menace and invites us to share in the experience. There is a quietness here then to enjoy as the birds move on across the landscape, a solitude both inviting yet impossible to really imagine.

‘Brown Swiss’ – 1957

Brown-Swiss

Another rural scene of great reflection and abandon. I’ve always loved the way here in which Wyeth employs grand arching brushstrokes to suggest a sense of depth and darkness along with his surgical eye. The branches to the right of the house for example seem to be anchored within the paint itself, aching up out of the background. With the brown that dominates the righthand side of the image a great patchwork of wrinkles and darker tones, as pockmarked and scarred as the house itself whose fence ominously retreats to nothing.

The house comes to us as a viewer through ways of a glorified dirt puddle, with the majority of the canvas focused on the hazy marshland around the ‘Brown Swiss’ as opposed to the eponymous residence. Similar to the aforementioned ‘Soaring’, there is a distinct quietude here, with the stillness and purity of the reflection below suggesting a derelict scene. Indeed the way in which the water just decapitates the head in the sense allows us not only to appreciate this solidity, but also points our gaze directly at the wonderfully evoked building. A place that is oddly unusual on inspection; its four tiny windows all seeming broken in someway, with maybe a Christmas tree of sorts huddled before the cracking fresco and long stains of rust.

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