Natural Selections: Andrew Wyeth Plant Studies

August 29, 2015 - February 07, 2016
Andrew Wyeth, Summer Freshet Study, 1942, tempera, © Andrew Wyeth. Private Collection

Andrew Wyeth, Summer Freshet Study, 1942, drybrush, © Andrew Wyeth. Private Collection

Throughout his seven-decade career, Andrew Wyeth was constantly inspired by two regions—Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he had lived since birth, and Cushing, Maine, where he had spent each summer. Wyeth immersed himself in the distinctive qualities of these geographic locations and reinterpreted their mood and meaning to him through the filter of his memories and imagination. 

Wyeth often created detailed preliminary studies in pencil or watercolor to explore ideas about the subject and composition to prepare for landscape paintings in watercolor or egg tempera. Even in preliminary works, such as Blackberry Branch (1943) and Summer Freshet Study (1942), the artist shows his intense involvement in subjects through the close, almost scientific approach he took to describing the specific character and quality of their forms. This investigative method draws upon longstanding European traditions of artistic study exemplified by the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer, artists Wyeth particularly admired.

Wyeth highlighted the beauty and ingenuity of nature’s designs in fragmented views and isolated forms. Through his intuitive sense of composition, Wyeth created images, such as in Distant Thunder Study (1961) and Blue Jacket (1954), which are pervaded by a dreamy, contemplative mood. His emotional expression towards his subject draws upon the artist’s interest in 19th-century Romanticism in poetry and art.

The exhibition included many rarely seen works on paper by Andrew Wyeth that demonstrate his minute observation and distinctive use of color. Although much care and attention went into their creation, these works were largely unseen in the artist’s lifetime. Wyeth worked out how to accentuate, sublimate—or in some cases eliminate—images in his final compositions. The drawings that were assembled here underscore Wyeth’s sense of discovery and pleasure in nature.