Remembering The Colors Of Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth was a quintessential American artist known for his use of greys and browns in a nearly singular palette found throughout much of his works of watercolor and tempera. In his popularity Wyeth became a stark opposite in modern art being “as rural as Andy Wharhol was urban” and representing middle-class values as much of the rest of modern art was rejecting them. Wyeth, who died on Friday January 16th, 2009 at the age of 91, will be remembered for his realist reflections of rural America and helping to bring the middle-class into a modern art world that was being defined by abstraction.

The Works Of Andrew Wyeth

When this non-traditional self-portrait was done, the artist was recovering from a major surgery to remove a portion of his lung. On his feet are boots once owned by Howard Pyle, founder of the Brandywine school of painting, as well as the teacher of Andrew’s father: artist and illustrator N.C. Wyeth. Here, the boots walk over Kuerner’s Hill in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania – an area that Andrew Wyeth has walked all his life.

A carry is a shallow place in a river where a boat must be lifted in order to continue travelling – a portage, like this one in Maine.

A marked difference can be seen in the artist’s palette in the Maine and Pennsylvania works, just as one can see the weather differ when comparing the summer and winter months. The artist and his family spend the warm months in the midcoast of Maine returning to the artist’s birthplace in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania each fall. This scene shows a splash of unexpected color in the chilly, dark days before spring. The painting was inspired by an actual incident when a bright piece of litter, a newspaper advertisement, blew across a snowy hillside.

Wyeth & the Critics

Museum exhibitions of Wyeth’s paintings have set attendance records, but many art critics have been critical of his work. Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The Village Voice, derided his paintings as “Formulaic stuff not very effective even as illustrational ‘realism'”. Common criticisms are that Wyeth’s art verges on illustration, and that his rural subject matter is sentimental.

Admirers of Wyeth’s art believe that his paintings, in addition to sometimes displaying overt beauty, contain strong emotional currents, symbolic content, and underlying abstraction. Most observers of Wyeth’s art agree that he is skilled at handling the mediums of watercolor and egg tempera (which uses egg yolk as its medium). Wyeth avoided using traditional oil paints. His use of light and shadow let the subjects illuminate the canvas. His paintings and titles suggest sound, as is implied in many paintings including Distant Thunder (1961) and Spring Fed (1967).

Pop Culture References

Wyeth was often referenced by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz (a longtime admirer) in the comic strip Peanuts. In one strip the character Snoopy was presented with a bill for “psychiatric help” 20 cents and states “I refuse to sell my Andrew Wyeth”. In another strip, Snoopy’s prized Van Gogh painting is burned in a fire, and he replaces it with an Andrew Wyeth. Fred Rogers, from the PBS television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, had an Andrew Wyeth painting in the entry way of the studio home, readily seen as he entered and exited.

Tom Duffield, the production designer for the American remake of The Ring (2002), drew inspiration from Wyeth’s paintings for the look of the film. M. Night Shyamalan based his movie The Village on paintings by Andrew Wyeth. The Village was filmed in Chadds Ford not far from Wyeth’s studio. Director Philip Ridley has stated that his 1990 film The Reflecting Skin is heavily inspired by the paintings of Andrew Wyeth in its visual style.

Sources:, Wikipedia &

Author: evad
David Sommers has been loving color as COLOURlovers' Blog Editor-in-Chief for the past two years. When he's not neck deep in a rainbow he's loving other things with The Post Family (, a Chicago-based art blog, artist collective & gallery.