The most important thing to note about Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, SAM’s blockbuster this fall, is that Wyeth’s masterpiece, Christina’s World (1948), will not be on view, the loan refused by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. But this still leaves a lot for visitors to enjoy. Wyeth (1917-2009), more popular in the 1960s and 1970s than now, is the odd man out in modern American art: too realistic, too sentimental and too accessible for followers of the avant-garde.
Instead of Christina’s World, SAM curator Patricia Junker has secured a loan from Japan of Thin Ice (1969), an important early work that is, believe it or not, abstract. There’s also a controversial and celebrated series, the nude Helga pictures, which were “created in secret…and kept hidden for decades.” This is the first time they have been seen in the Pacific Northwest.
Using neighbors near his Pennsylvania and Maine homes as models, Wyeth, son of the leading American illustrator of the early 20th century, N.C. Wyeth, retained his father’s skillful representational style, but he added emotional depths and internal psychological vibrations that are closer to Edward Hopper. Wyeth was honored with an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1980.