This episode of the Masters and Mod Pod, Teresa and Suzanne talk about two American artists, one who is considered an American Master, Andrew Wyeth, and one Modern, Alexander Calder.
When speaking about Andrew Wyeth, it’s difficult not to mention the familial talents that go with the name Wyeth. His father was N.C. Wyeth, one of the great American Illustrators of the 20th century. His sister, Carolyn Wyeth was a great painter, as was several other siblings including Henrietta Wyeth Hurd, and his son, Jamie Wyeth.
Wyeth’s work is decidedly modern, although he considered himself an abstract painter (not by the traditional definition of the word!) he was categorized as a regionalist and realist.
What makes him a master in this series is his superb technique and use of egg tempera, a very old medium made with the yolk of an egg and pigment. He truly perfected a style and method of painting with this medium and his use of lighting and color palette which captured a specific location and time of day. He is quoted about using egg tempera, “Tempera is not a medium for swiftness. You have got to weave it, as if you were weaving a rug or tapestry, slowly building it up.”
They talk about Christina’s World, one of his masterpieces, (which you can find at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC) and his paintings of Helga, the model who was his muse for many paintings. Wyeth made over 240 drawings and paintings of his German model, Helga Testorf. Helga became a minor celebrity because of these paintings, as she was featured on the cover of both Time and Newsweek magazines.
Many of his paintings are on view at the Brandywine museum in Chadds Ford, PA.
On to the modern, Alexander Calder. Teresa picked him because of his use of a very modern material, metal and wire. Calder, who went to school to be an engineer and physicist, instead became a sculptural artist. Working in metal and wire, Calder made works of art that were kinetic, that is, they had movement. Many of his sculptures were called “mobiles”.
On the flip side, his stationary sculptures were called “stabiles” and ranged in size from small to huge. He is famous for his “Calder Circus”, a small wire sculptural work that can fit in a suitcase. He used wire, shapes and bright paint to create a three-dimentional and moving work of art, as if abstract paintings popped off the canvas and reached out to grab the viewer.
His large, sheet metal public sculptures were also abstract, which cause a lot of controversy when they were installed.
These two famous American artists, although they differed in their materials and their styles had one thing in common: while Wythe worked with brushstrokes that were wire-like, Calder painted with brushstrokes of wire.