Biography Bronzes Drawings-Pastels Mixed-Media Contact

ANDREW WYETH searching for the road less traveled

In 1976, the year I graduated from high school, my artistic hunger and energy changed dramatically. While visiting a friend, I came across the publication KUERNER’S FARM, a collection of drawings, watercolors, and egg tempera paintings executed by the American painter, Andrew Wyeth. The artist had roamed his German neighbor’s farm since childhood blending in like one of the Brown Swiss cattle on the place. Those works affected me like no other art I had seen. Though I was immediately drawn to the spare but captivating nature of his technique, I was more consumed by this mysterious story that was his. What kind of personal world must this and other artists occupy to create such works of genius? Do our lives, our exposure, our relationships and the troubles show up in our creative expression? How could they not? Through this revelation I began to see things for the first time.

My first human contact with Andrew Wyeth came two decades later. In November, 1995, I received a thank you note from him regarding a pencil portrait I had sent the previous month. Then in March, 1997, I received a phone call from Betsy Wyeth, the woman Thomas Hoving (former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) once described as having “unique and precious insights into every phase of the artist’s life and creativity.” She was contacting me regarding a portrait bust of her husband that I had been working on. It seems that although Mr. Wyeth doesn’t lend himself to that sort of thing, something about the photographs of this clay head had captured his imagination and they were inquiring about the possibilities of my coming to Chadd’s Ford for an official sitting with the artist. He felt there were some subtle changes I might want to make if we spent some time together.

If I hadn’t heard her with my own ears, I wouldn’t have believed it. These seven years later, the experience remains somewhat dreamlike. This man whose life work had stimulated me onto a path of my own had invited me for a visit.

I arrived in the Brandywine Valley later that month and met Andrew Wyeth on a Saturday morning. Although he initially seemed quite uncomfortable, once we found ourselves in a spontaneous discourse on the creative process, this bust in particular, he relaxed and asked if I would please call him Andy. And so it was and so we visited and so we worked there for two days.
“You know, ears can be a portrait in themselves, revealing as much intimacy as the eyes or the mouth as far as I’m concerned,” I told Andy Wyeth that day. It really was something I had long believed to be true.

“You know, I feel the same way. Edward Hopper and I once had this conversation, and he told me Eakins didn’t feel that way. His ears were all the same, sort of put in only to finish the head,” Andy responded.

I was struck by the moment. Eakins? Thomas Eakins? There we sat in that makeshift studio, a country boy from Pennsylvania and one from Mississippi, discussing Edward Hopper and Thomas Eakins; a glimpse into the history of American art. No big deal, I suppose, except that one of us was Andrew Wyeth, himself an integral part of that same history.

Each of us has dreams and memories that might be considered possessions in a way. We certainly own them and they can be quite personal. And though we can share them, they ultimately remain ours, more likely than not, important only in our own minds. I had dreamed for two decades of making contact with Andrew Wyeth. After all, his work had made contact with me. For the rest of my life I will treasure the memory that I spent a short time with the man, even though we have corresponded occasionally since that meeting. However, as time has passed, I have come to realize it was my work that had really made the contact and that has made all the difference. It was enough.