I have been enjoying the films I’ve been sharing lately featuring the work of some of my favorite artists. It sometimes gives me a wider view of their body of work, giving me glimpse at lesser known pieces alongside their greatest hits while listening to music that often fits the tone of the work.
Today’s pick was an easy one for me. It’s a lovely compilation of the work of Andrew Wyeth set to the gorgeous guitar of John Williams‘ version of British composer Stanley Myers’ Cavatina. You might recognize the song from its prominent place in the film The Deer Hunter.
Andrew Wyeth would have been 100 years old in 2017 and to mark the occasion, the Fenimore Museum in Cooperstown has an exhibit opening in May that celebrates the life and work of Wyeth. It is curated by his granddaughter, Victoria Wyeth, and includes many items from his personal collection. It is on my to do list.
Anyway, enjoy this beautiful group of paintings and the music that accompanies it. I am off to work, happier for having watched this short film this morning.
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Andrew Wyeth- Night Sleeper 1979
I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.
Andrew Wyeth- Trodden Weed
I love this short quote from the great Andrew Wyeth. That second sentence speaks to how I view my own relationship with what I do– I do more painting when I’m not painting. The mind is always clicked on, seemingly always seeking that something, that one inside thing that is crying out to be expressed.
It’s a built-in thing, one that can hardly ever be turned off. You would think it would be a maddening quality but it has become a normal way of functioning and I would probably panic if I found my mind not churning in some way.
Sometimes it is in the form of day-dreaming, just letting the imagination run free. Other times it takes place in the words or sounds or images of others. Like pulling a new thread from an existing fabric.
Inspiration comes in many different forms and the mind is always looking for them.
Here’s a neat short film from artist/filmmaker Andrew Zuckerman that shows Wyeth describing how he sometimes find inspiration.
Andrew Wyeth from Andrew Zuckerman Studio on Vimeo.
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Posted in Biographical, Music, Recent Paintings, Video, tagged Alexandria, Andrew Wyeth, D-Day, GC Myers, National Gallery of Art, Peanuts, Principle Gallery, Traveler, Vince Guaraldi, Wasgington DC, World War II Memorial on June 8, 2014|
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“Peerless” – Included in the “Traveler ” Show
I am back in the studio this morning after returning from Friday night’s opening of Traveler at the Principle Gallery. There is a sense of relief in the aftermath, a deep exhalation at having mostly completed my obligations for the show. But there is often a letdown as well, a combination of having passed the endpoint you’ve been working towards for months and natural self-doubts about things you might have done differently in this show. Fortunately, this show left me with only the mildest of letdowns. I am already focused on my next projects and as far as doubts, while there may be just a few minor ones, I am sure that I have done all that was in my power for this show and the work in it.
We had a lovely few days in Alexandria, blessed with the best weather we’ve seen in all the years that we have been visiting in early June. In the past, we have often endured 100° temperatures, torrential rains and excruciating humidity on this weekend. But this year it was as perfect as the weather could possibly offer with temps in the high 70’s, blue cloudless skies and low humidity . I am available for other regional weather reports, as well! In short, perfect conditions to wander around the area a bit before the show.
We attended the ceremony at the World War II Memorial honoring the living veterans on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. It was a beautiful setting there on the Mall, often moving, and I felt very honored to be able to spend a short time in the near presence of those vets who survived that day of days. We also were able to see the Andrew Wyeth show at the National Gallery that I wrote of earlier in the week. It was wonderful to see so much of his work together, to be able to see the constancy and consistency of his personal vision as well as his ability to capture deep emotion within his scenes.
All in all, it was a great stay. But the highlight was being to see many of the folks that I have met over the years who opted to spend some time at the gallery instead of out in that perfect weather. I know that if I were in their shoes, it would have taken a lot to get me there. But for the many who did turn out and to Michele and her great staff– Clint, Jessica, Pamela and Chris along with guest bartender, Fernando Ascencio– I extend a simple and grateful Thank You. I wouldn’t be here right now writing this if not for you all. And that I will always remember.
Okay, it is Sunday morning and we need to music. I was thinking something calming while I decompress. Here’s a classic Vince Guaraldi composition, Cast Your Fate to the Wind. It has some of those same elements that you might recognize from his iconic work with the Peanuts gang.
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Wind From the Sea- Andrew Wyeth
A friend sent me a link to the exhibit, Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In, that is hanging at the National Gallery of Art until the end of November. It centers on a group his work that features windows in the imagery, a theme that he revisited numerous times in his career. It is work that demonstrates a real sense of abstraction and deeper emotion within his realism, something he felt was often overlooked in his career, particularly by those critics who downplayed the importance of his work during his lifetime. There has been a reevaluation in the aftermath of his death with a deeper understanding of it and at last Wyeth is getting the full acclaim his work accorded.
My friend said that the introductory essay for the exhibit reminded him of my work. At first, even though I was pleased with the compliment of being compared to Wyeth in any way, I didn’t quite see it. Our work is, after all, so different in appearance in so many ways, our surfaces and imagery having little in common. But the quote from Wyeth at the end of the essay made it much clearer:
You can have the technique and paint the object, but it’s what’s inside you, the way you translate the object — and that’s pure emotion. I think most people get to my work through the backdoor. They’re attracted by the realism and sense the emotion and the abstraction — and eventually, I hope, they get their own powerful emotion.”
It’s a sentiment I have often tried to get across to people. I want my work to have a simplicity that invites easy accessibility into the picture, hoping then that they will see the underlying elements– the forms, colors and textures– that transmit the emotion of the piece, hoping that my own emotion will be replaced by their own. Like Wyeth, I consider myself an abstract painter in this same backdoor approach, inviting the viewer with something with which they can easily relate initially until they fully realize the emotion of the piece.
That is, if they do at all. There are some who just won’t get beyond the apparent simplicity and accessible nature of the work. Certainly the critics of Wyeth never did try to look beyond the surface and that was their loss. But if you’re in the DC area this year, try to make it to the National Gallery of Art to see this wonderful work. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
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Posted in Favorite Things, tagged Andrew Wyeth, Asher Durand, Cooperstown NY, Fenimore Art Museum, Grant Wood, Henriette Wyeth, Howard Pyle, NC Wyeth, Peter Hurd, Thaw Collection of American Indian Art, Thomas Cole on September 4, 2013|
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Andrew Wyeth -Mother Archie’s Church 1945
We went to Cooperstown this past Monday to catch the last day of the Wyeth Family exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum. It was a great show featuring work from patriarch NC Wyeth, son Andrew, grandson Jamie, daughter Henriette and daughter Carolyn as well as Henriette’s husband, Peter Hurd and NC’s primary influence Howard Pyle. That’s a lot of talent to jam into a relatively intimate space. You might think that it would be less than satisfying but the curating of this show was masterful, showing each artist in a truly representative manner that gave a real taste of their body of work. Just a wonderful show. I am glad I got to see it if only to see a few of NC Wyeth’s gorgeous works and to discover more about his son-in-law, Peter Hurd, whose work is wonderful, bringing to mind the regionalist painters such as Grant Wood.
Thomas Cole- The Course of Empire- Destruction
Of course, there was also the spectacular Thaw Collection of American Indian Art to see. As always, it was a thrill to see the beautiful aesthetic of the native culture. And as good as both the Wyeth show and the Thaw Collection were, I was truly bowled over by the current show, The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, featuring works from the Hudson River painters of the 19th century, Just beautiful and strong examples from the genre, highlighted for me by the works of Asher Durand and the spectacular Thomas Cole series of five paintings, The Course of Empire , which features the rise and fall of an empire in the landscape, a rocky peak with a precariously perched boulder standing as a constant witness. You have probably seen some of the paintings from this series but to see them together in their full scale is to really get a great appreciation for their power. It hangs at the Fenimore until September 29, so if you can, take a trip and see some incredible work.
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I recently picked up a book, Andrew Wyeth: Autobiography, which is not really an autobiography but features over 130 of his pieces throughout his career along with short descriptions about them by the artist. It’s quite a striking collection of images especially if you’re attracted to the Wyeth palette of earthy browns and greys, as I am.
I have many favorites here but perhaps the one I like best is this piece, Night Sleeper. There’s a lot here to look at yet it maintains a quiet and contemplative stillness that one associates with Wyeth’s work. The two windows provide two separate examples of landscapes, the moonlit mill in one and the dam and millstream in the other, that could be great paintings on their own.
It’s all held together and anchored by the tee of the interior windows and the sleeping dog, an image I’m really drawn to. There’s something about the posture and comfort that dogs adopt when sleeping that I find interesting, something that plays on a sense of reciprocity that I have with dogs, one where they watch out for me when they are awake and I watch out for them when they are asleep. Their sleep indicates a deep trust and a sense of security.
But the bit of this painting that makes the whole thing sing for me is the pale blue striping on the pillow or bag or whatever it is that the dog rests against. That bit of color adds a whole layer of depth that would not be there otherwise and creates a beautiful harmony, echoing the moonlight that plays on the window frame on the right. For me, it immediately brings to mind Henri Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy and its whole feeling. They are very different paintings in many obvious ways but there is a ribbon of feeling that runs between them, in my mind at least. I think this immediate visceral association adds a layer of appreciation of this painting for myself. That little blue striping adds all the warmth of the Rousseau painting to my sense of this Wyeth painting.
In short, I think this painting is a peach.
Have a great Saturday.
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In an earlier post I talked about the great American painter Andrew Wyeth on the day after he died. His father was NC Wyeth who was the preeminent illustrator of the early 20th century, illustrating some of the great books of the time.
Throughout his life, he wanted to be known not as an illustrator but as an easel painter, a fine artist. There seemed to be this fine distinction that because an illustrator brought the scenes and ideas of others’ stories to life that they were somehow below the work of those who painted solely their own ideas. I never understood that concept because it was still Wyeth who composed the paintings and created the colors and brushstrokes that distinguished the work. Wasn’t this very much the same as many Renaissance artists who painted many of their great works for the Church? Are they not considered fine artists?
I’ve always been attracted to the work of NC Wyeth having seen it innumerable times in print. There was a real dynamic quality, punch, in his paintings. However, it wasn’t until I saw his work in person that I truly appreciated how beautiful his work truly was.
He treated many of his illustrations as fine paintings, with glorious paint appplication that created beautiful surfaces within the painting. His colors were complex, hardly ever a pure single color. His blues often had glazes of red, his whites tinged with yellows. All of his colors had an earthy base that gave them a dark edge and weight. His compositions were bold and inventive, highly contrasting and dramatic to best illustrate many of the adventure stories on which he worked. In person, many of these paintings are even more stunning than on the printed page.
His non-illustrative work was much more mundane, less dramatic but well executed. His real spark seemed to be from the stories he was bringing to life. The Arthurian legends, the Leatherstocking tales of Cooper, the pirates of Robert Louis Stevenson– all seemed fresh and new in his paintings. Unlike many artists, I think being freed from having to create a narrative of his own actually gave him the opportunity to fully exploit all the knowledge of technique and composition he held. As though having the decision of what to paint taken from his hands allowed that energy that would be expended to be used on making the painting stronger. Whatever the case, whether you choose to call it fine art or illustration, the resulting work was memorable and deserves a nod. It continues to inspire to this very day.
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