Andrew Newell Wyeth was born on July 12, 1917 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest of the five children of illustrator and artist N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth and his wife, Carolyn Bockus Wyeth. As a child, Andrew was home-tutored because of his frail health. His studies of writing, poetry, music and movies heightened his artistic sensitivity. He began drawing at a young age, and was a draftsman before he could read. When he was a teenager, his father brought him into him studio for the only art lessons he ever had. His father inspired Newell’s love of rural landscapes, sense of romance and artistic traditions. During his teenage years, Andrew Wyeth produced illustrations under his father’s name. He mastered figure study and watercolor, and learned egg tempera from his brother-in-law, Peter Hurd. He studied art history and admired masters of Renaissance and American painting, especially Winslow Homer.
Wyeth was a visual artist, primarily classified as a realist painter. He worked predominantly in a regionalist style. In 1937, Andrew Wyeth had his first one-man show at the Macbeth Gallery in New York. His works that were displayed were watercolors depicting scenes around Port Clyde, Maine. He also exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1943, he participated in a group show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that presented “American Realists and Magic Realists.” In 1947 and 1966, he exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where 200 of his paintings were on display. In 1960, the Royal Academy in London, England, held its first Andrew Wyeth retrospective exhibition, entitled “The Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth.” The exhibition came to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1976.
In 1940, Wyeth married Betsy James, who played an important role in managing his career. In 1945, his father and three-year-old nephew died in a tragic car accident. Andrew Newell Wyeth referred to his father’s death as a formative emotional event in his artistic career, in addition to being a personal tragedy. This event, along with his personal lung illness in 1950 led him to portraying survivors and their surroundings in great depth and detail.
Andrew Wyeth was a recipient of many awards from institutions and societies including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Carnegie Institute, the Wilmington Museum, the Butler Art Institute, the American Academy & Institute of Arts, the American Watercolor Society, as well as many others. President John F. Kennedy nominated Andrew Newell Wyeth for the Medal of Freedom, and President Lyndon B. Johnson presented it to him in 1963. In 1990, President George Bush awarded Wyeth the Congressional Medal.
Wyeth’s work is in many public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Art Institute of Chicago; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the University of Nebraska; New Britain Museum, and the Delaware Trust Bank.
Andrew Wyeth died on January 16, 2009. He died in his sleep at his Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania home, after a brief illness. He was 91 years old.