This Day in History… July 12, 1917

Birth of Andrew Wyeth

US #5212c – One of Wyeth’s most famous paintings – Christina’s World.

Artist Andrew Wyeth was born on July 12, 1917, in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

Andrew Wyeth was the youngest of N.C. Wyeth and Carolyn Bockius Wyeth’s five children.  N.C. was an affectionate father and famous artist, encouraging each of his children to pursue their own talents.  Three, including Andrew, followed in N.C.’s footsteps and became artists.

US #3502r pictures N.C. Wyeth’s Captain Bill Bones.

During his childhood, Wyeth was ill so often he was forced to leave school.  After that, he received his education from his father.  N.C. taught his son the fundamentals of drawing and watercolor painting as well as traditional school subjects like history and mathematics.  He also had his son study Robert Frost, Henry David Thoreau, and other great literary masters.  In fact, his father found it amusing and exciting that Andrew’s birthday fell on Henry David Thoreau’s 100th birthday.  The works of these authors first influenced Andrew to paint the beauty he found in nature.

US #5212 – Set of 12 Wyeth First Day Covers.

Most of Andrew Wyeth’s life was spent in his hometown.  He painted a variety of subjects in Chadds Ford, but his favorite seemed to be Karl and Anna Kuerner’s farm.  Wyeth produced over 1,000 of paintings and drawings of their property throughout his lifetime.

When not in Chadds Ford, Wyeth lived in his summer home in Cushing, Maine.  He found an endless supply of inspiration in Maine’s people and completed many paintings while there.  One of the most famous is Wind from the Sea, a highly detailed tempera depicting sheer curtains blowing into an upstairs room of the Olson house in Cushing, Maine. 

Another famous painting from his time in Maine is Christina’s World.  It depicts family friend Christina Olson.  She and her brother Alvaro were common subjects for his paintings and their home was his favorite place to paint.  In fact, their 14-room farmhouse was named a National Historic Landmark in 2011 for its role in Wyeth’s career.

Wyeth focused on regional subjects, seeking to showcase the extraordinariness in the everyday.  Wyeth sought to create the same reactions in others he felt while painting – giving his work impressive depth.

US #5212 was issued on Wyeth’s 100th birthday in 2017.

Andrew Wyeth is famous for his attention to detail – he was said to “paint every blade of grass.”  To achieve that precision, Wyeth’s paintings took many hours to finish. He worked in layers and thought about every brush stroke before he made it.  With Wyeth’s watercolor pieces, like Alvaro and Christina, he used both wet and dry brush techniques.  Wet was used for the basic colors and shapes, and dry was used to add textures and detail to the painting.

US #UN449 pictures two Wyeth paintings: The Corner and Alvaro Packing Hay.

Wyeth’s paintings earned him an honorary degree from Harvard University in 1955.  Eight years later, he was featured on the cover of Time magazine when President Johnson awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom – he was the first painter to receive this award.  By the late 1980s, the selling price for Wyeth’s paintings had gone from $100,000 to over $1 million.  In 1988, he received the Congressional Gold Medal.

US #1445 features a painting by Wyeth’s son, Jamie.

Wyeth died in Chadds Ford after a brief illness on January 16, 2009. 

Click here to view more of Wyeth’s art.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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