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Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life Paperback – April 21, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (April 21, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060929219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060929213
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Andrew Wyeth's achievement is unmatched by other modern American realist painters: he produced canvasses that became American icons, deepening our sense of the possibilities of representational painting in an abstract age. This biography, produced by family friend Richard Meryman, who first wrote about Wyeth for Life magazine in 1964, takes in not only Andrew Wyeth's life but three generations of Wyeths: the peerless illustrator N. C. Wyeth, Andrew's father; Andrew Wyeth; and Jamie, Andrew's son and a successful realist painter in his own right. The "Secret Life" of the title refers in part, of course, to the "Helga" paintings, sketches, drawings, and portraits (many of them in the nude) of Wyeth's neighbor, later his companion and assistant, Helga Testorf. The revelation of the "Helga" series gave the married Wyeth's life, at almost 70, a final dose of drama. This new biography, besides delving deeply into Wyeth's personal life, includes long discussions of almost every Wyeth canvas. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"They're sticking pins in me!" Wyeth complained in 1986 after the press roasted his furtive and seminude "Helga" paintings. "I'm a has-been." Then 70, he had been an artistic icon since his 20s, and Christina's World, Wyeth's signature canvas, ranked with Whistler's portrait of his mother and Wood's American Gothic as national images. Meryman (Mank: The Wit, World, and Life of Herman Mankiewicz) bases his biography on interviews over many years with Wyeth, his family and his inner circle. Bare of printed sources and dependent on dialogue, the book strikingly evokes three generations of a talented, idiosyncratic family, its middle generation the progeny of a larger-than-life artist (N.C. Wyeth) insecure to the end about his worth. Andrew Wyeth (b. 1917) himself appears as a bundle of contradictions?modest and vain, outgoing and secretive, moved by anger as well as by love, a painter of pitiless pictures as well as postcard scenes. To his biographer, Wyeth's studies of rustic loneliness and decay accomplish what Edward Hopper achieved for 20th-century urban life. There are 75 b&w and 16 color photos here. Wyeth wanted a "tough book," writes Meryman, not one in which his works were "reverentially placed on the page surrounded by white borders"; he wanted "the excitement of pictures bled off the edges and carried across the gutter." The artist should be pleased with the result. Readers certainly will be.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I loved the book and am now half way through reading it again.
Kay MacDonald
I loved reading this book and recommend it to anyone who has just a glint of interest in Andrew Wyeth and his paintings.
Julie Meyer
Mr. Richard Meryman has been writing about Mr. Andrew Wyeth for decades.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on July 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Richard Meryman has been writing about Mr. Andrew Wyeth for decades. With the possible exception of Family he is as well qualified as anyone to bring this deeply personal biography to readers and art lovers alike. His subject is a man who many would argue to be one of, if not the finest artist this Country is home to. When placed among his Father, his Sisters, and his Son, there is no other Family who has contributed to the art world for such a long period of time, in so prominent a manner, and with so high a level of excellence. The 21st Century marks the beginning of the third that the Wyeth name has maintained its place in the world of art and the hearts and imaginations of collectors. As a Family their History is already the material of both myth and legend.
My cautionary note in the title is important in direct relation to what you know about the man, who he paints, why, and what one of the most prevalent themes that mark his work are. I came to this book as a great admirer of his work, and I finished it with my love for his work intact, I do not have any of the same ideas I once did prior to reading the book.
"Christina's World" which is one of his singularly well known works, is also one of the least understood. The house and its influence on the artist did spawn it's own art book, but the events in that house could inspire several more. The same can be said of Christina Olson. Once I read about the work and what Mr. Wyeth had to say, I felt foolish in my ignorance, the fact that my misconceptions are shared to this day bring no comfort.
The book does not require any knowledge of Mr. Wyeth to be read and enjoyed. It certainly will add to the experience if you know of the model that is recognized simply as "Helga". Mr.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Paul Azzopardi on August 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book deals with Andrew Wyeth's relationships. Importantly, it often deals with Andrew Wyeth's relationships simulataneously. One relationship is analysed and the conclusions are superimposed onto another relationship to seek similarities or contrasts.
Describe the book as a series of overlapping X-rays of Andrew Wyeth's relationships, if you will, but do not expect Meryman to give you one final, big revelation.
Rather, Meryman goes for all the details and intricacies without at any time repeating himself or getting boring. The book is an exciting exploration of a complex and great artist. Meryman is all the time getting there, removing the layers of skin around Wyeth's core secrets, but never actually arriving at the heart, no matter how many accurate, sensitive, well-aimed X-rays he plies.
You sense, though, that the tension in his major relationships -- with his father NC Wyeth, his wife Betsy, his two sons, his sisters, his black friends, the people he painted most, namely, Helga, the Kuerners, the Olsons -- you sense that the tautness of feelings in each case, sharply controlled, come to bloom in his meticulously executed paintings which are austere yet quintessential life.
Paintings feeding on life. Life sublimated into art. And thus the reason, as Meryman shows, why Wyeth could not just paint anything, why before Wyeth embarked on a picture he had to be sure it had enough emotional engagement to see him through to the end, why his subjects became themselves the objects of his emotions, an intimate part of his life, like Helga.
The first picture I saw of Wyeth's was "Winter 1946", showing a boy seemingly lost in the fields. He did this the year after his father's death. Anyone who has lost a parent cannot help recognising the anguish in this picture.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ando Perez on October 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have recently been studying [privately - I am a painter, not a student] the work of Andrew Wyeth, and so was pleased when I came across this biography of his life. I found it a totally absorbing read, and read the whole [it is long] book cover to cover, which even Rothko's biography failed me on, and I am a great fan of his. Reading a negative review above - Andrew Wyeth is not a dirty old man, and please don't let that reviewer put you off. As an artist, struggling daily with the development of my craft, I found this book riveting. It explained a lot to me about myself [and I am neither old, dirty, nor a man!] and my life as an artist, and my partner's role in that life. The descriptions of Wyeth working, his methods, his relationships with his models [few of which were ever nude, or female], all people he knew, in depth, and loved, in depth. This is a warts and all biography, a thorough and fascinating read. So fascinating, that I feel sorry to have just finished the last page earlier today, and having to return my library copy of the book, I am visiting Amazon to purchase my own copy for my collection. Buy it, borrow it, beg it, read it, even an abstract painter will learn from reading this book. It is about an artist's relationship with his world.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
I read this book last year and I still think about the indepth research and wonderful language. The railroad crossing segment is worth the price of the book. The book will make you see Wyeth's work in a new light. Another book recommendation of same gendre, "Utopia Parkway".
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