Andrew Newell Wyeth was born in the idyllic Pennsylvania farming village of Chadds Ford. His father, N.C. Wyeth, was a well-known mural painter, and Andrew grew up in an environment that encouraged creativity. The young Wyeth was a sickly child, who had to be home schooled. He recalled: “I played alone, and wandered a great deal over the hills, painting watercolors that literally exploded, slapdash over my pages, and drew in pencil or pen and ink in a wild and undisciplined manner.”
Wyeth’s father’s studio provided him with a forum to learn to look at objects carefully and observe and capture their transient qualities. His father took notice of his talent when Andrew was fifteen, and trained him in various technique but allowed him to develop his own style. He was always drawn to realism, and at a young age began to develop his own style, which was greeted by the art community with great enthusiasm.
Until 1942 Wyeth worked in watercolor, but in that year his brother-in-law, Peter Hurd, introduced him to egg tempera. This medium, together with the dry brush method he often employed, forced Wyeth to slow down the execution of a painting and enabled him to achieve the superb textural effects that distinguish his work. A few years later in 1945, Wyeth’s father died in a car accident, which Wyeth states was a career-defining moment. To that point, he felt that he hadn’t made a real contribution to the art world, and his father’s death created a resolve in him to do something important. From that point forward, Wyeth’s paintings began to exhibit more poignant emotion. It is also at this time when Wyeth started to paint people in earnest. Most of his portraits are of single figures, which in their reflective solitude transmit a sense of loneliness. It is these meditative paintings that came to define mature Wyeth’s style.
Wyeth’s work is included in the most prestigious American museums as well as those around the world. His resolve to paint what was most important to him and not cow to the prevailing taste for abstraction earned him a badge of courage and a reputation as one of America’s most famous and successful living artists.