Andrew Wyeth, stalwart painter, 91

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Published January 19, 2009

 

The painter Andrew Wyeth, who died on Friday at the age of 91, was in some ways more daring than those of his 60s and 70s contemporaries associated with the avant-garde. Wyeth’s commitment to a type of naturalist painting, often depicting his rural Pennsylvania environs, put him out of step with artists exploring abstraction and appropriation. But his connection of Surrealism to rural Americana still feels remarkably fresh. Wyeth was an intensely secretive man, infamously painting model Helga Testorf for 15 years, most often nude, before finally revealing the project to the world (and his wife, Betsy) in 1985. The revelation shocked an art world that thought it had Wyeth pegged—the harmless old man who was still painting picture-postcard landscapes. In life as in art, Wyeth was rarely what he seemed.