The Rural Voice in Andrew Wyeth Paintings

Andrew Wyeth paintings are famous for their depiction of American rural life. Many critics agree that he is the only rural artist of any consequence. His paintings realistically portray recognizable American landscapes, and beneath the surface of his work, lay comments on deeper social issues relevant to country life.

Baleen, 1982

Baleen, 1982

The work of Andrew Wyeth serves as a record of the life and movement of country life. He manages to capture the finite details of rhythm and perspective in a rural world that many see as simple. His artistic voice speaks intimately of the country way of life and avoids all clichés or inaccurate descriptions. For the city audience, Andrew Wyeth paintings are viewed as beautifully realistic, but a rural audience has a more meaningful appreciation of the subtleties found in his paintings. For example, a pair of boots on a front porch leads one to wonder if the man of the house is coming or going. Has he been hunting? Has an animal been killed? For the appropriate audience such questions automatically arise when examining his work.

The details of Wyeth’s work are meant not only to realistically depict rural life, but also to address its harsh realities. Moreover, Andrew Wyeth paintings are not to be seen as sentimental, but as complex portraits of a way of life that is sometimes humorous, beautiful, painful, simple and tragic. Although Wyeth successfully embraced these complexities, he was aware that not all audiences would be attuned to the many layers of meaning present in his work.

For the admirers of Wyeth’s work, those who understand his intentions and recognize his symbols, the paintings inspire a sense of community. They become iconic, and so people share in a communal appreciation. His description of rural life represents a secure set a beliefs about the world, and this is not only engaging but also meaningful for the viewer. Andrew Wyeth paintings give voice to rural life and depict an unchanging world amidst nature that is both primitive and complex. His work respects order, tradition and stability. He is an artist of remarkable skill and enviable compassion. And for these reasons, many critics see Andrew Wyeth as the foremost artist of American realism.

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