Andrew Wyeth: Way to Watercolor

Andrew Wyeth, one of the most famous U.S. artists of the 20th century, and even perhaps in history, found inspiration in daily life. As his popularity grew, so did the debates surrounding him and his art. A master of realism, he has been called “America’s best known and best loved artist”, as well as a commercially-viable mongrel. Wyeth watercolors turned ordinary moments in life, which many thought to be bleak and boring, into celebrated works of art. Today, many Andrew Wyeth watercolor prints are sold over the web at varying prices, in different sizes, and presented on many distinctive surfaces.

Wind from the Sea

Wind from the Sea

An Early Beginning

Andrew Wyeth Watercolor: Wind from the Sea Andrew Wyeth began studying art at a very young age. His father, the illustrator Newell Convers Wyeth, recognized his son’s talent and fascination for art, and took interest in teaching him. While Andrew was learning the discipline and basics of traditional drawing, he discovered his passion for watercolors and began to experiment with them. His early paintings often included rocky landscapes and the sea.

Although Andrew learned the art of painting from his father, his pieces were very different from his father’s. While N.C. Wyeth used a full array of colors, and often painted lively figures, Andrew was more reserved in his art. He chose mostly to work with warm, earthy tones, and created somber figures and landscapes. The difference between the two artists becomes quite apparent when examining one Wyeth watercolor against another. See Andrew Wyeth's biography here.

Famous Andrew Wyeth Watercolors

A well-known Andrew Wyeth watercolor entitled “Christina’s World”, is considered by many to be a rare representation of mid-20th century America. Created in 1948, the realist-style painting was inspired by Christina Olson, a neighbor suffering from a muscular deterioration that left the entire lower half of her body paralyzed. From his window, Andrew witnessed her crawling across a field on the Olson farm and was motivated to capture and immortalize the image. However, Andrew used his wife as a model for the painting.

Other famous Andrew Wyeth watercolors include: Bradford House, Wind from the Sea, Late Fall, Easterly, and the Helga Collection. Although (and perhaps because) the Helga Collection initiated a huge amount of criticism and controversy, the watercolor paintings of Andrew’s neighbor Helga Testorf remain some of his most widely-recognizable paintings in the art world today.

The Watercolor World of Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth has been an American icon in the art world since the mid 1930’s, when he had his first watercolor exhibition and completely sold out his paintings. His fans consider his art a remarkable display of beauty, with strong emotional vibes and symbolic content. Nevertheless, many art critics judge Wyeth watercolors to be ineffective, conventional, and lacking sentiment.

Many Andrew Wyeth watercolors are typical portrayals of the vastness of the American landscape, often focusing on familiar subjects such as the neighbors and the community. Andrew’s work also reflected the harsh life experienced across the U.S. during the depression and post-war eras, which in part, attributed to his popularity and success.

Wyeth watercolors display a limited use of hues and a muted palette, bringing attention to the “dull” aspects of life. He favored fall and winter scenes, which allowed him the opportunity to use earthy colors sometimes paired with a surprise splash of red or deep green to capture the viewer’s eye.

Andrew Wyeth’s Versatility

Aside from watercolor, Andrew Wyeth was also skilled in the use of egg tempera, which was introduced to him by his brother in law. Egg tempera is a media which combines powdered pigment with water and egg yolk to make a very unique texture and color distribution. Many times, he used the two together to create a one-of-a kind painting. The combination not only significantly added to the realism of his paintings, but also rendered them distinctive from those of other artists.

Whether you love or hate the Andrew Wyeth watercolors, there is no denying the artist’s unique skill and firm grasp of realism.

- By Dan Woods

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