Monday, January 19, 2009

Andrew Wyeth Touched My Time

Art enthusiasts will be familiar with famed American painter Andrew Wyeth who passed away this week. I began as a painter forty years ago and then spent a career as a church pastor and have now returned to painting in retirement. I reflected upon Andrew Wyeth’s influence upon me, and thought this may of interest to you.

Andrew Wyeth Touched My Time

I saw his work through a young man’s eyes with untried hopes
My novice skills and promise showed
I lived to dream where whims could lead
Then Andrew’s brushwork on published pages in my hands
Like holy scrolls I scrutinized
His unrivaled design, the subjects evocatively rendered
Curtains in a breeze, a rust topped milk can and weathered boots
All things of life where Wyeth lived
With tempera and egg he laid them down with time
Celebrated pieces with national fame
My obscurity and his renown
I knew him where he walked, his habits and his loves
Never met yet mentored truly to emulate a will
To paint the things I know and see and feel
Four decades passed and I have come to paint again
An older man with time I am
And saddened by the news that Andrew’s time is gone.
Yet with the time that was
His emotion in a lifetime of treasured strokes
An artist’s legacy.

© Copyright Ron Unruh, January 18, 2009

“Christina’s World” painted in 1948 launched Wyeth’s popularity. The painting portrayed his neighbour, Christina Olson crippled from the waist down dragging herself across a farm field in Maine. His paintings depicted the wind driven landscapes, weathered buildings and the exceptional faces of the men and women of his Pennsylvania and Maine homes. After the Second World War, art critics seemed to want to divest themselves of all art but contemporary abstraction. Wyeth’s craftsmanship should have been apparent to everyone but he was the son of renowned illustrator N.C. Wyeth, and some people in the art community always regard Wyeth as nothing more than an illustrator himself. Much the same failure to appreciate Robert Bateman has occurred within the Canadian art community over the past decades.

He retained popular appeal nonetheless and became a celebrity although with reluctance. He himself said, “I am an example of publicity — a great deal of it.” “I’m grateful because it gives me the freedom to go and try to do better. But I never had any great idea that these people are understanding what I’m doing. And they don’t.”

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