The Seattle Art Museum is now exhibiting a retrospective of Andrew Wyeth’s work in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth. Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect includes 110 paintings and drawings spanning the artist’s 75-year career. It is an amazing show and a tribute to Wyeth’s mastery of detail, accomplished mostly with tempera on hardboard panels. But he gets exquisite detail from regular watercolors, too, employing a technique using a dry brush.
I loved seeing Wyeth’s paintings in the flesh, up front and personal. The overall compositions were always outstanding, but each painting also offered up many interesting and meticulously painted details. I was interested to see how Wyeth painted trees, for example. The detail, even on his backgrounds, was astonishing.
Wyeth’s art is grounded in a few locales — Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania where he lived his entire life and the coast of Maine where his family summered. It is inspiring to see the breadth of work that sprung from such few and singular places. Wyeth’s works evoke a sense of dignity in the ordinary. He painted beautiful portraits of people in his community, each stroke seemingly made with love.
The details reveal the respectful bond between artist and model. Such care.
I was hard pressed to pick a favorite from among the paintings and drawings in this exhibition. I was drawn to the portraits, but Wyeth’s landscapes and still lives were also meticulously wrought and wonderfully evocative of America’s agricultural past. The details in these compositions rang true to my memories of growing up on a small farm.
And Wyeth was a master of landscapes. I stood and gazed, lost in the details of the foregrounds, middle grounds, and backgrounds — a rich experience.
“Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect” is on exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum through January 15, 2018. If you are downtown, it would be well worth a visit.