Andrew Wyeth died the other day at age 91 at his home in Pennsylvania. Both Anya and I were surprised; I could have sworn he had died years ago. I remember seeing his work at NOMA a few years back, and even then the impression I had was that he had already died. I can only surmise that these last few years, he was not working, although I understand that he painted well into his 80's.
I'll talk about the two pics in a second.
What I find amazing is the kind of criticism that was leveled at Wyeth's work during his lifetime. Common criticisms are that Wyeth's art verges on illustration, and that his rural subject matter is sentimental. Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The Village Voice, derided his paintings as "Formulaic stuff not very effective even as illustrational 'realism'".
Here's Time magazine's take:
Even when Wyeth is admitted into the canon, he's held a bit at arm's length. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City owns his most famous canvas, Christina's World, which it acquired in 1948, soon after it was painted, for just $1,800. But while the picture is always on display at MoMA, it's consigned to what you might call an anteroom on the margins of the more respectably modern galleries . . .
The London Times art critic even cut poor Christina's feet off. You think they would have left off the bottom of a Pollock or a Rothko?
So I ran across this story. Seems Aelita Andre will be holding her first gallery showing at the Brunswick Street Gallery in Victoria, Australia later this month. The gallery's art director was shown her work by another client of his, liked what he saw and set up the show, with lots of press and promotion.
WhenThe Age's art critic, Robert Nelson, was shown the works, his first impression was of "credible abstractions, maybe playing on Asian screens with their reds. They're heavily reliant on figure/ground relations."
One problem. Aelita Andre is 22 months old. That's right--my kid COULD paint that.
Maybe Wyeth could have been more credibly abstract; he could have paid more attention to color-shape and that old bugaboo, figure/ground relations.
Well--of the two paintings above, one was done by an artist, the other was done by someone who woke up fussy from their nap.
Go ahead--guess which one!