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Jamie Wyeth ( 1946 - )  Category ( Painters ) [suggest a correction]
 

James Browning Wyeth was born in 1946 at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania to artist Andrew Wyeth and his wife, Betsy. He was the second and last child, born three years after brother Nicholas (who later became an art dealer). James, known as "Jamie," was raised on the same land as his father and in the same tradition - learning art skills while surrounded by interesting and talented family members and friends.

The only difference in Jamie's childhood and that of his father's was that Jamie attended public school for six years. Afterwards, he was privately tutored by his family with a concentration in art. He later moved to New York to study anatomy at the city morgue. It was here that he met artist Andy Warhol. It was in this city where he also had his first one-man exhibit at the Knoedler Gallery.

Through association with family friends, the Wyeths were acquainted with the Kennedy family. Both Robert and Edward Kennedy posed for Wyeth, so the family commissioned him to paint a posthumous portrait of President John Kennedy. Wyeth captured Kennedy in his early presidency, with a look of doubt crossing his face. This period was during the Bay of Pigs invasion. Although the family did not like the portrait, the public clamored for it and it has become one of the most famous images of that president.

In the next several years, Wyeth painted portraits of artist Andy Warhol and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger (both painted at Andy Warhol's "Factory," located on 860 Broadway beginning in 1974), Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and President-elect Jimmy Carter. On his portraits, Wyeth has commented, "To me, a portrait is not so much the actual painting, but just spending the time with the person, traveling with him, watching him eat, watching him sleep. When I work on a portrait, it's really osmosis. I try to become the person I'm painting. A successful portrait isn't about the sitter's physical characteristics--his nose, eyeballs and whatnot--but more the mood and the overall effect. I try not to impose anything of mine on him. I try to get to the point where if the sitter painted, he'd paint a portrait just the way I'm doing it."

Interestingly, Wyeth served in the Delaware Air National Guard from 1966 to 1971. He took part in "Eyewitness to Space" program jointly sponsored by NASA and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. This program was designed to record details of the United States space program, including studies of the launch preparation and of the astronauts. Wyeth also was admitted to the U.S. Senate and Supreme Court to record in detailed drawings the proceedings regarding the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, including the tense courtroom scenes in Judge John J. Sirica's trial of John D. Erlichman, G. Gordon Liddy, and other Watergate defendants.

Wyeth married Phyllis Mills in 1968. Mills was one of his models and she had been permanently crippled in a car accident.

Jamie Wyeth's medium is oil paint, a more restrictive range than his ancestors. However, his reach is broader than his father's and grandfather's (N.C. Wyeth) in that he excels in drawing, lithography, etching, egg tempera, watercolor and mixed media. His travels and experiences have shaped a wider world view, pushing him beyond the boundaries of his father's "regional artist" genre. But, critics often level the same critiques against his work as they did his father's work. While supporters view Wyeth paintings as timeless, critics view them as too close to illustration and out of touch with the surge of 20th-century modernism.


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