Two Patrons of America: Andrew Wyeth and George W. Bush
When Andrew Wyeth marched up the steps of the golden stage in the White House East Room, he did so with remarkable vivacity. Greeting President George W. Bush with tactile familiarity exposed him not only as America’s distinguished painter, but also as a personage of a heartfelt nature. At that instant in 2007, Andrew Wyeth and George W. Bush stood side by side in candid conversation. Moments later, the President presented him the National Medal of the Arts.
The President’s wife Laura had decorated one of the rooms in the White House with paintings that they owned in order to make the space feel like home. She called one of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings “Island of Maine” and it gave George W. Bush the opportunity to remember the summers he spent with his wife in Maine.
Art works that discreetly reveal some of Andrew Wyeth’s notable character traits are “Christina’s World” and the Helga series.
Within the painting, the purposely stretched distance between the subject and the house creates a sense of longing and personal isolation, emotions that Wyeth most likely projected unto Christina. Yet, there also exists a level of serenity and beauty in the composition that indicates his understanding of the concept of slowing down in order to produce a clear appreciation of natural surroundings. Wyeth was a man who took his time and went for long walks alone, so there is a subtle embodiment of the painter’s personal traits in “Christina’s world”. His appreciation of a peripheral life may have stemmed from the fact that he was a sickly child who had to be schooled at home, and therefore spent much of his time inside the house. Like many of Wyeth’s images, “Christina’s World” has a haunting quality that is not easy to shift. See more about Christina’s World.
Aside from this ‘love of home’ connection, and their meeting at the nomination in his honour, Andrew Wyeth and George W. Bush share little in common, but will always remain renowned patrons of America.
The National Medal of the Arts was not the first award bestowed upon Andrew Wyeth. In 1963 he became the first painter to receive the President’s Freedom Medal and in 1990 received the Congressional Gold Medal which is the highest honour granted to a civilian.
We will probably never know what Andrew Wyeth was so intimately sharing with George W. Bush on November 15th 2007, but the President’s words reflected the people’s opinion: “[his] meticulous realism has captured the American consciousness and [his] austere vision has displayed a depth and dignity of American life”. Andrew Wyeth died on January 16, 2009.
by Dan Woods