Andrew Wyeth has died at the age of 91. The painting above, “Wind from the Sea,” is a great favorite Wyeth painting of mine – the kind that makes me go sort of weak in the knees no matter how many times I see it reproduced.
Conventional? Yes. Dark? Yes, again. But, like so much of his work, there is something going on beneath and within that fires my neurons with flashes of recognition. It’s an elemental attraction for me – the colors, the perspective, the reflective mood of solitude that so many of his paintings portray.
Wyeth said it himself:
“I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future — the timelessness of the rocks and the hills — all the people who have existed there,” he once said. “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape — the loneliness of it — the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.
I went to college with one of Wyeth’s nieces. After I discovered the connection, we talked about her “Uncle Andy” often (and cousin “Jamie” too). At that time – late 1970’s, early ’80’s – she told me that he was no longer exhibiting in the U.S. because he had become so dismayed by the reaction of prominent art critics to his work.
Since then, he did relent a bit. There was the “Helga” exhibition that I traveled to Kansas City to see in the mid-90’s, but there haven’t been many exhibits or opportunities to view retrospectives of his work.
Perhaps that will change now, as so often happens after an artist has died.
Perhaps, too, that private collector who gets to stand in front of “Wind from the Sea,” alone and uninterrupted for as many hours in the day as he or she needs or wants to, might some day share that experience with the unwashed masses.
When that time comes, I’ll be there.