US painter. Among the most popular of contemporary US artists, he was one of the leading exponents of New Realism and considered one of the greatest American Scene painters. His portraits and landscapes, usually in tempera, are naturalistic, minutely detailed, and often convey a strong sense of the isolation of the countryside. Although realistically painted, his works are also highly personal and emotive; empathy for his subject is clearly evident in his well-known Christina's World (1948; Museum of Modern Art, New York), an intense portrait of Christina Olson, a family friend afflicted with polio.
Wyeth painted primarily the rural landscape of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania (his birthplace) and Cushing, Maine (his summer home), along with the people of the land. His work, although executed in the spirit of realism, is notable for a sense of strangeness and mystery, stemming from both his personal response to the subject matter and his minute painting style. In That Gentleman (1960; Dallas Museum of Art Dallas, Texas), Wyeth not only captures every physical detail, but also succeeds in illustrating the psychological state of the subject. His personal attachment to the people and places depicted in his paintings is shown in works such as the ‘Helga’ series, exhibited at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC in 1987, comprising 240 paintings and drawings of his neighbour Helga Testorf.
Wyeth's interest in perspective and detail can be seen in works such as McVey's Barn (1948; New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut). Other well-known paintings include Winterfields (1942; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) and Her Room (1963; Farnworth Museum, Rockland, Maine).
Wyeth had his first solo exhibition in New York at the age of 20; the show was an immediate success and every painting sold.He received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, a Congressional Gold Medal in 1990, and the National Medal of Arts in 2007.
His father was the illustrator N C Wyeth and his son James Browning Wyeth (1946– ) is also an artist.
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