January 16, 2009
TT: Andrew Wyeth, R.I.P.
I said my piece about America's most popular painter three years ago:
Wyeth is an odd case, a self-evidently gifted artist whom few art critics take seriously save as a technician. I am, for the most part, one of their skeptical number, though I do like his splendidly accomplished drybrush watercolors, a few of which are to be found in this crowded (in all senses) retrospective. I don't care at all for the large-scale paintings, which have always struck me as essentially false, all but quivering with an embarrassed romanticism poorly concealed beneath a cloak of pretended austerity. It's the paintings that most people love, though, and I wish I could agree with them...
The obituarists will now grapple with Wyeth, and I don't envy them the task. My guess is that most of what gets written about him in the hours and days to come will have more to do with his reputation than his work. I do hope, though, that someone has the wit to ask Paul Johnson to write a tribute. In Art: A New History Johnson called Wyeth "the only narrative artist of genius during the second half of the twentieth century." I don't agree, but I'd very much like to hear on this occasion from someone who is prepared to cut against the critical grain--and who is more interested in Wyeth's art than his life.
Posted January 16, 2009 10:29 AM