The only N.C. Wyeth painting I photographed while at the gallery was “The Crystal Gazer.” The subject, David Lawrence, was Andrew’s childhood friend.
I love this painting.
One day, while in the midst of working on the painting of George Washington as shown on the easel below, N.C. Wyeth and his grandson were killed by a train that collided with their car as they were crossing the nearby tracks. Noone knows exactly why it happened- maybe a heart attack, maybe the car suddenly stalled, maybe the train was off schedule and appeared unexpectedly.
Two lives over, quickly and unexpectedly.
The tragic loss of his father changed Andrew’s world.
“The secure, uncomplicated world that Wyeth had been painting with such vivid flourish was shattered. Reassembled in shock and sorrow, it was totally changed.” – Richard Merryman
The first painting, after the loss.
“Describing the tempura, Wyeth says “the boy is really me, at a loss- feeling disconnected from everything. That hand drifting in the air was my free soul, groping. Just over the hill was where my father was killed, and I was sick I had never painted him. The hill finally became to me a portrait of him. The painting was the one way I could free this horrible feeling that was in me- and yet there was great excitement. For the first time, I was painting with real reason to do it.”” from Andrew Wyeth by Richard Merryman
This idea- that tragedy in my life, in our lives, becomes an opening…
When I walked into the gallery where Andrew’s paintings were (no photos were allowed there) I was overcome with emotion. There, I could see how great loss became an opportunity for an artist to find himself. The teaching of his father is there, but Andrew is not meant to replicate his father. He is meant to be an instrument of his own unique soul.
I am one person who feels grateful for his willingness to do just that, beautifully.
Thanks to the Wyeth family for their amazing legacy.