American Master: Andrew Wyeth, son of N.C.

 DATELINE: And father of Jamie Wyeth

Christina's World Another World?

As painters go, he was dismissed by a generation as the dark vision of Norman Rockwell, or the pastel version of Grant Wood.

Andrew Wyeth ignored all and remained true to himself: he is a giant of American art.

True enough, he was groomed for the role of independent artist by his father, N.C. Wyeth, whose vibrant and bold book illustrations inspired generations of readers. He was the guy who gave you early 20th century visions of Treasure Island and other classic novels. He was Scribner’s go-to artist of robust literary images.

N.C. felt smaller than life, making a big living in his art, but not true to what he felt he should have been. So, he instructed and mentored his son Andrew from an early age to become all the father never could.

If you don’t yet appreciate Andrew Wyeth, this documentary will educate you fast and completely. He was a man who never went to study European masters but stayed in PA and Maine to paint the bleak landscapes of his world. He also used a tempura style to mute the already dour, almost airless world of his art.

“Christina’s World” catapulted him into international fame. Few understood the stark horror of an invalid crawling home, which was the subject matter.

For a man who seemed to catch the wind on canvas, he was an easy mark for a wife who served as business manager, and a secret model named Helga who gave him 15 years of portraiture. In his old age, he released these works, which catapulted him back in the conversation of art masters.

He was dismissed for a time as not being abstract enough, experimental enough, and too sentimental with his deathly images. It’s no wonder: his father was killed by a hideous train accident.

Art and man conjoined in Andrew Wyeth, and the ample 20th century record of pictures, interviews, home movies, and his art work, provide us a documentary for the ages.