Interview on the Legacy of Andrew Wyeth | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Interview on the Legacy of Andrew Wyeth

Henry Adams, author of "Wyeth's World," speaks with the artist about his early work, influences and technique.

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What has been the response to this exhibition?

The director of the Philadelphia Museum tells me that when she goes into the gallery there's utter silence. Like a church. They're really looking. I get letters from people about my work. The thing that pleases me most is that my work touches their feelings. In fact, they don't talk about the paintings. They end up telling me the story of their life or how their father died.

What does it feel like for you to look over 70 years of work?

When I made these paintings I was lost in trying to capture these moments and emotions that were taking place. It's a shock for me to go through and see all those years of painting my life, which is very personal for me. It's a very difficult thing for an artist to look back at his work. If it's personal it touches all these emotions.

I'm shocked when I see my early work. At the show in Wilmington I saw the painting Tenant Farmer. Its solidity impressed me. You think you're developing and getting better and then you see something you did years ago. Looking at your early work—sometimes it has a depth that surprises you.

When I'm working, I often put a painting upside down. Does it hold its own in terms of texture and weight?—forget the subject.

How have you been influenced by modern art?

I have been perfectly natural in my development. I haven't gone to some show in New York and been influenced. I have never really sat down and looked at abstractions. I was dripping paint in a Jackson Pollock way—but it was a natural feeling for me. They say I was influenced by John Marin, but Christ, I was painting like that before I ever saw a Marin. In the catalogue one of the writers said that I was influenced by the Philadelphia painters, but that's not true at all.I thought they were stupid.

I was influenced by Winslow Homer.He influenced me to be freer with watercolor.

What were the early influences on your work?

About Henry Adams
Henry Adams

Henry Adams is a contributor to Smithsonian magazine and a Professor of American Art at Case Western Reserve University.

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