There was once a time when even those who had only a passing acquaintance with art knew the name N.C. Wyeth and that of his son Andrew. Even if they didn’t know the names they probably knew the painting “Christina’s World”, if not by name, then by image.
Well, that was then and this is now. This once the most famous family of artists in America seems to have generally sunk from the collective consciousness. A week ago one of two shows opened at the El Paso Museum of Art refreshes our memory a bit with a collection of art by not only N.C. and Andrew, but also Henryette and son Jamie.
This selection called Wyeths Across Texas organized by the Tyler Museum of Art so named because it comes from a variety of collections thoughout Texas rather than because the works were painted in Texas.
N.C. didn’t want to be known as “just an illustrator”, but the majority of his art shown here are paintings for illustrations from various books. They show his particular style with large blocks of color and a certain feeling of solidness, even when what is being portrayed is a scene of action. There is often a shaft of light beaing down, or a halo of cloud around someone’s head. Andrew learned painting from his father and though what we have here are watercolors, they also reflect what has come to be known as a family style. Interestingly, one of the works shown is a drawing for a painting of Andrew’s neighbor which Andrew sold to the Dallas Museum of Art for the then unheard of sum of 67,000 dollars in 1961. One can’t help remembering that two years later we had Andy Warhol and his Brillo Box and the whole world shifted.
Those who like their art to be more or less realistically drawn renderings of scenes, hopefully involving a horse should find much to like here. Those who feel that art should include parts found in, say, an auto salvage yard less so. But with these works by N.C, Andrew as well as by Henryette, who more than holds her own with the better known other members of the family and works by son Jamie the exhibit up through April 28th is not a bad way to take another look at a sample of work by a famous artistic family now unfairly no longer as present in the public eye.-david sokolec