Andrew Wyeth in the Orchard

The moment came for Andrew Wyeth one afternoon in an orchard.

It was fall. He was still a young artist. And he was painting a watercolor of apple trees. He’d never gone to school – art or otherwise. As a child, his health had been frail and delicate, so he was tutored at home and in the studio of his father, the illustrator N.C. Wyeth.

There in the orchard, “I had made a very careful drawing,” Andrew Wyeth said, “and I was just filling in the lines.”

At some point, his father came over to where he was painting. N.C. Wyeth was a powerfully built man with delicate hands who, as Andrew Wyeth put it, was “always groping for something new” in his work.

N.C. Wyeth looked at his son painting in the lines. “Andy,” he said, “you’ve got to free yourself.” And he took the brush from his son, filled it full with paint, and made an apple tree out of sweeping, generous strokes.

Other things influenced and touched Andrew Wyeth’s work. Albrecht Dürer’s paintings of animals. Winslow Homer’s watercolors. Howard Pyle’s texture. The writings of Thoreau and Frost. The countryside of his farms in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Cushing, Maine.

But in the orchard with his father and a brush full of paint, “I learned more then from a few minutes of watching what he did than I’ve ever learned from anything since.”

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