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Andrew Wyeth: The Helga Pictures

October 16, 2004 - January 9, 2005


(above: Andrew Wyeth, b. 1917, Farm Road, tempera on masonite, 1979)

One of the most celebrated exhibitions of the work of a living American artist is coming to The Mint Museums. Andrew Wyeth: The Helga Pictures concludes its national tour at the Mint Museum of Art from October 16, 2004 through January 9, 2005.  This exhibition of 70 paintings, watercolors and drawings completed over a 14 year period combine to form a beautiful and poignant study of one woman. (right: Andrew Wyeth, b. 1917, Braids, 1979, tempera, 16 1/2 x 20 1/2 inches)

When first revealed to the public in a 1986 Time magazine article, The Helga Pictures became a sensation in the art world.  The following year, the collection was exhibited at the National Gallery of Art inWashington D.C. - the first time that museum had featured the work of a living artist.  Since then, The Helga Pictures have been seen by millions of museum visitors at major museums in the United States and Japan. [1]

The name Wyeth is synonymous with an American artistic dynasty.  Born in 1917, Andrew is the youngest of five children.  His father -- artist and illustrator N.C. Wyeth -- was known for his "blood-and-thunder," swashbuckling illustrations for Kidnapped, Robin Hood, The Last of the Mohicans and Robinson Crusoe.  In marked contrast, Andrew Wyeth's watercolor and tempera landscapes and portraits are characterized by the quite and still qualities of his subjects.  He has depicted paupers and Presidents, family and friends, neighbors and landscapes. But his Helga works may be Andrew Wyeth's greatest achievement in the last generation.

From 1971 to 1985, Wyeth created the approximately 240 works that record an intensive study of Helga Testorf. She is a German immigrant whose family worked for Karl Kuener, the Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania neighbor whom Wyeth made the subject of many works during the 1960s and 1970s.  Wyeth created his Helga Pictures in nearly complete privacy without revealing to anyone -- even his own wife -- the series' existence, the identity of the model, or the extent of the project.  This exhaustive exploration of one subject is unprecedented in American art.  Wyeth drew and painted Helga clothed and nude, indoors and outside in every season for over a decade.  The volume of work is characteristic in many ways of his approach toward a subject of special interest -- repeated, investigatory and diverse.  In his autobiography, Wyeth remarked that "Helga posed non-stop.  I'd get tired, but she'd say, 'Hey I'm not at all tired.  Keep going!'  Choosing models is a chancy thing.  You can be around a model for months and nothing will happen, until suddenly you see something and it works." (right: (right: Andrew Wyeth, b. 1917, Crown of Flowers, drybrush on paper,1973)

Wyeth's realism provides a window into his deeply symbolic and spiritual realm.  His 1948 painting Christina's World -- depicting a young woman diminished in body but strong in spirit -- has become an American icon.  In this famous work, he transformed a simple rural setting into an evocative drama of longing and isolation.  Farm Road (1979) depicting Helga facing away from the artist and the viewer, gazing into an empty landscape, recalls Christina's earlier strength and loneliness.  In the exhibition catalogue, Donald Kuspit comments are the use of fertility symbols such as in Crown of Flowers(1973).  Helga remarked that these crowns are traditionally worn by German brides.

The Helga Pictures is being circulated by International Arts & Artists under the auspices of Ann Kendall Richards Nitze and Masami Shiraishi.  The exhibition is sponsored by Goodrich Corporation.

Additional upcoming events related to the Andrew Wyeth: The Helga Pictures exhibition include the following:


About International Arts & Artists

International Arts & Artists is a non-profit, comprehensive arts service organization. Founded in 1995, IA&A is using innovative approaches to respond to the needs of the international arts community.

IA&A promotes international and cross-cultural understanding by working with a multitude of museums and cultural institutions, showcasing a wide range of diverse artists, arts movements and cultural programs. IA&A has collaborated with institutions in more than 40 states in the United States and with institutions in France, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Brazil in an effort to make the arts more available to a broad segment of the population.

International Arts & Artists's Traveling Exhibition Service provides large and small institutions with a wide range of thematic and solo exhibitions. [2]



1. RL readers may also enjoy these earlier articles:

2. from the International Arts & Artists website at http://www.artsandartists.org.

rev 9/10/04

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