Yesterday, I took the ferry over to Seattle to meet my friend Ginny for a trip to the Seattle Art Museum. It’s just a few blocks from the ferry dock, so an easy walk up and back.
After a quick bite of brunch at Homegrown, we entered the peaceful atmosphere of SAM. Upon arriving at the 4th floor gallery, we encountered a docent leading a large group. Though we might have learned a lot from tagging along, we chose to go in the opposite direction. This caused us to discover Wyeth’s work in the reverse order of his life, and it was fascinating.
I have never been a fan of his muted palette nor choice of subject matter, but this exhibit was a revelation in several ways. Wyeth was the son of a famous, commercially successful and extremely talented illustrator, Newell Convers (N.C.) Wyeth. He was taught by (apprenticed to) N.C. While I far prefer his father’s work to Andrew’s, reading about their intertwined lives gave me much to consider about their differences, as well as the people, places and life experiences that shaped them.
It was a thrill to be able to study the brush work from inches away. No reproduction – however fine – can capture the actual color and energy of brush strokes and pencil marks. Many of the details in his paintings are rendered so finely that they are the size of a single human hair. His patience must have been truly phenomenal.
I came away with a new insight into his obsessions, and an appreciation for the bits of color and light which he allowed himself to sparingly include in his later work. It was not an uplifting exhibit, but it was illuminating.
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