Today was a special treat for me as I taught my students about one of my all-time favorite artists, Andrew Wyeth. Perhaps it’s my love of the Helga series, maybe it’s my utter obsession with all things Maine…whatever it is, Andrew Wyeth fills my soul. His piece Around the Corner even holds a spot of distinction above my fireplace mantle in our living room… And, so, how delightful to share this love with my kids.
The youngest of five children, Wyeth was homeschooled by his famous artist father, NC Wyeth, and learned to paint long before he learned to read. Following in his great father’s footsteps, Andrew had his first showing at the age of 23 in New York City and went on to become one of the most beloved American artists in history.
Today we learned all about this iconic artist’s childhood, his love of the landscapes in Pennsylvania and Maine and his dedication to befriending his portrait subjects – spending hours with each of them before painting one stroke. We learned about his fascination with Christina Olson, the inspiration for Christina’s World. Ms. Olson, unable to use her legs due to an undetermined illness, eschewed the notion of a wheelchair and, instead, got around her farm by literally dragging herself. Ever proud, she never wanted anyone’s pity – she just chose to move around this way. This, of course, appealed to Wyeth’s self-reliant nature and he entered into a lifelong admiration for her.
Here are a few more fun facts about Andrew Wyeth:
- Andrew was the youngest of 5 siblings
- At the age of 23, Andrew had his first one-man show, which sold out!
- Andrew was famous for saying of art, “What you have to do is break all the rules.”
- According to his family, Andrew knew how to paint before he knew how to read.
- In 1986, 247 drawings of Andrew’s neighbor Helga were found – before that, no one knew he had even used her as a subject!
- Andrew used egg yolk in his paint – this is known as egg tempura!
Here are a few of the Wyeth pieces we looked at today:
To really get us in a Maine-like mood, I read Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal (kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk) and then, inspired by Wyeth’s simple, elegant works, each child was given the opportunity to create a pen and ink drawing of a winter scene of their choice. They then traced their rough drafts onto vellum paper with pens. The results are just breathtaking:
Here are a few fun things you can do at home to further your children’s appreciate of Andrew Wyeth:
- Andrew Wyeth’s father, NC Wyeth, was a famous children’s books illustrator. Look for his books in your local library or bookstore!
- Andrew loved to paint portraits of people after getting to know them. Have your child draw a portrait of you or another family member, incorporating something into the picture that they know about you! A fun activity for kids – and an eye-opening one as well!
- And on the off-chance you might be going to Pennsylvania any time soon (take me with you!), Andrew Wyeth’s Chadds Ford studio is now open to the public!