Jamie Wyeth (James Browning Wyeth, born July 6, 1946, Wilmington, USA) is an American realist painter, son of Andrew Wyeth, and grandson of Newell Wyeth. He painted from early childhood and held his first solo exhibition at the age of 20. For the most part, the artist painted the countryside and seascapes of Maine, pets, birds and cattle. Still, these are portraits which take a special place in the artist's work. The first mature work of Wyeth, created at the age of 17, was a portrait of his neighbour. Later he would paint Vietnam Veterans, members of the Kennedy family (John Kennedy - posthumously) and President Jimmy Carter. His most famous works in this genre are the portraits of his father Andrew Wyeth and the painter Andy Warhol.
Creative features of artist Jamie Wyeth: just like his father, the artist all his life works in a realistic style. In his early works, Wyeth preferred to work with oil, but later he expanded his arsenal: graphics, tempera, lithography, watercolour, etching and mixed techniques. .
Jamie Wyeth did not stand a chance. How can a person, being born in an artistic dynasty and growing up surrounded by his father's and grandfather's amazing works, not become an artist himself? Of course, in any family traditionally following the standard pattern of professions sooner or later there appears a rebel who goes against all, sometimes causing serious conflicts. But Jamie Wyeth is not one of them. He knew from childhood that painting was his vocation. "Everybody in my family paints - possibly, except for the dogs," said Jamie Wyeth.
Painting as a diary
Once, shortly after the September 11 attacks, Jamie Wyeth was driving along the broken and bumpy country roads of Pennsylvania, surrounded by pastoral landscapes. And suddenly a bright spot attracted his attention: there was a white barn on top of a hill with a huge American flag painted on it. At the bottom of the hill there was a pond reflecting the stars and stripes. Wyeth realized that he was simply obliged to paint that scene. He called the finished painting Patriot’s Barn.
Jamie Wyeth does not consider himself an artist in the usual sense. He says that he simply "records" everyday events and people. “I hate the idea of ‘now I’m creating a painting for an audience.’ My painting is simply recording my life and my thoughts. As if I were doing a diary.”
Still, just one look at the huge variety of his works - sketches, miniature dioramas, illustrations for children's books, huge landscapes and detailed portraits - makes it clear that everything is not as simple as it seems. The artist himself either does not realize the breadth of his own talent, preferring to remain in the shadow of his famous father and grandfather, or simply shows off. Wyeth said, "Whether I’m painting a person or a seagull or a pig, I like to think that if that pig painted, he’d paint himself exactly the way I was doing it. That’s what thrills me."
Jamie Wyeth was lucky enough to be born in one of the most famous families in the US. His father was the famous American realist Andrew Wyeth, crowd-pleaser, who never betrayed the chosen style at a time when the artistic world was stormed by the abundance of avant-garde trends. Jamie's grandfather, illustrator Newell Wyeth, was adored by American children who grew up on books with the images of pirates, cowboys and Indians, created by him. Moreover, his uncles and aunts were all painters. And Jamie's older brother Nicholas became an art dealer.
Since his birth, Jamie has been surrounded by paints, brushes and pencils, so it's no surprise that he started painting at the age of three. The boy used drawings to express his impression of a book he'd read or a movie he'd seen. Jamie was taught by his father and aunt Carolyn. Studying at school, according to the artist himself, just bothered him: “I had gone to public school like every other kid my age, but I was not interested in basketball or football. I only wanted to paint. My father was taken out of school because of illness when he was young. I thought that was a great pattern and determined that I was going to do the same thing." The boy was allowed to leave public school after the sixth grade to be tutored at home, and he began to draw several hours a day. Not so long ago, Wyeth admitted that he still devotes every minute of his life to painting.
Jamie created his first "mature" painting at the age of 17. That was Portrait of Shorty, the Wyeth's neighbour, whose gaunt unshaven face and a shabby, dirty undershirt contrasting to the rich upholstery of the antique chair create a sense of restlessness and loneliness. The same year Jamie received his first commission from Johns Hopkins University. And at 20, he managed to hold his personal exhibition.
Jamie Wyeth came on the American scene many decades after realism lost its popularity, and gave the way to impressionism. But the artist followed in father’s footsteps and was also faithful to the outdated style of life during his whole life. In general, Wyeth was quite conservative: he lived the whole life with one woman, he didn't move far from his native places and lived in the house he grew up in. Perhaps, the most extravagant act was purchasing a house on Monhegan Island, Maine, for money earned from his first exhibition.It was former Rockwell Kent's house, the favourite artist of Wyeth. Jamie had been collecting Kent's works and corresponding with him for many years.
Now Jamie Wyeth lived in three houses simultaneously. In Pennsylvania, in the home of his childhood, he paints livestock, horses, barns, dogs and his wife Phyllis. On the Monhegan island, his paintings contained mainly seagulls, traps for lobsters, houses with grey roofs and the battened churches. And, finally, Tenants Harbor Lighthouse, which Jamie's parents bought in 1978, and where one of his studios located. Wyeth said, “I've always loved the sea. And what’s more emblematic of the sea than to live in a lighthouse? It could be very cliché-ridden, but who cares… It is my home."
The unity of opposites
In 2012, Jamie Wyeth created a portrait of Andy Warhol. In this painting, he transferred his died friend to one of his favourite places - the island of Monhegan. The phantom, almost incorporeal figure of Warhol, flooded with moonlight, sharply contrasts with the unshakable "materiality" of the rocks. In his hands, he holds a barely noticeable camera, which Warhol didn't leave during his lifetime, and peers, apparently, into the night sea in search of a successful frame.
The original title of the painting Moonlight Voyeur is difficult to interprete. The characters of the portrait either peeps at the moonlight, or he himself is woven of it. “He was a fascinating person, and very childlike,” Wyeth said of Warhol. “He always wanted to come to Maine and I always wanted to bring him to Maine, so I put him on the rocks of Monhegan.”
Wyeth and Warhol spent a lot of time together in the 1970s. Jamie had a studio at the famous Warhol's Factory, where creative people and outcasts of all stripes gathered together. It is difficult to imagine what could unitetwo so different people: silent introvert Jamie who preferred rural landscapes to big cities throughout all his life and outrageous Andy who could not spend a single day alone and always managed to find himself in the thick of things. But in fact, they had a lot in common. At least, they were both criticized. Wyeth - for the excessive traditional style, and Warhol - for excessive innovation and conjuncture. They both collected things; both were interested in death and morbidity. Warhol was called the Patriarch of Pop, and Wyeth - the Prince of Realism. And, finally, the two artists expressed deep respect and appreciation for each other’s work. Warhol admired Wyeth's impeccable technique and said, “I love his work. I always wished I could paint like him.” Wyeth, in turn, compared Warhol's early works with his own paintings: “I thought that the Brillo boxes and the soup cans by Warhol had a certain power in them. Warhol had taken the actual object, not really messed around with it or abstracted it in any way and it had a certain vitality. Why abstract the object if the object is what hits you?”
This mutual interest and love towards each other’s work resulted in a portrait exchange between the two artists and an unprecedented joint exhibition of these portraits in 1975. Jamie Wyeth depicted his friend in a hyper-naturalistic manner, without embellishment and flattery: colourless eyebrows and eyelashes, blemished skin, disheveled hair, and an expression that seems to suggest that he was abruptly taken by surprise. On the other hand, Warhol transformed Wyeth, a rural kid from Wilmington, who perfected his technique by painting farm animals and landscapes, into a pop star, placing Wyeth on a par with John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Elizabeth Taylor. Both artists made several preliminary sketches of these portraits, which are very interesting as independent works.
But the most interesting thing is that Wyeth's sketches (1, 2) both in mood and performance are much more similar to the work of 2012 than to the early portrait. They are made in the same style and colour range as the series of portraits of Rudolf Nureyev (1, 2, 3), created by the artist in the 70's. Now all these portraits stand out especially brightly in comparison with other Wyeth’s works. They are imbued with the freedom-loving New York spirit, however they remain "the Wyeth’s". Still, very soon the artist would return to the familiar, quiet, contemplative world of deserted coasts, empty summer houses, interlacing tree roots and soaring gulls.