Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family by Susan Goldman Rubin

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[Lesley] Yes, this is a book written for elementary-aged children, but before you think it’s not for you, think again. This book is a wonderful read for children and adults who are interested in art and especially artists from New England whose work is iconic. I have been taken with work by the three Wyeths (N. C., Andrew, and Jamie) since I was in 6th grade. My mother took me to an exhibit of Andrew’s Helga paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The exhibit also included some other pieces and I remember distinctly Christina’s World. Part of my fascination probably came from my mother’s clear admiration and love of these paintings, but I had my own attraction to them as well. More recently, the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester had an exhibit of watercolors by Andrew Wyeth. Jamie takes a blend of his grandfather’s and father’s styles and creates one wholly his own. I love his portrayals of Monhegan Island and the coast of Maine along with his surprising portraits of animals and people, including one of Andy Warhol.

While I have admired the artwork of all three Wyeths over the years, I never knew much about them as people or their development as artists. Everybody Paints! was a perfect entry into their worlds and their training/education. The book starts with N. C. Wyeth, his childhood, his drive to create art despite his father’s disappointment, and his mentoring by the tough and eccentric Howard Pyle. N. C. Wyeth was a very successful illustrator (for the Saturday Evening Post and eventually for Scribner’s – remember those classic illustrations in Treasure Island?) but always struggled with wanting to be known as a “real” artist. Andrew left traditional school early, just like his father, in order to study art seriously with his father (N. C.) who gave Andrew his first watercolor set at age 13. After Andrew “graduated,” his father encouraged him to go to Maine to paint. There, Andrew found his talent for depicting the sea and quickly had a sold out exhibition. The Helga paintings were perhaps his crowning achievement and were in tempera, dry brush, watercolor, and pencil – showcasing his mastery in many mediums. Jamie is an illustrator, a portraitist, a landscape artist and a draftsman using watercolor, oil, charcoal and often using his fingers, sticks, and pieces of cloth instead of brushes.

I appreciated how the book focused on each Wyeth in turn, but also integrated each one into the other two lives – as it usually is in families. Being able to see how they each influenced each other was interesting, and even more so that the influence didn’t just work in one direction; the sons inspired and taught their fathers as well as the other way around. The quote from Jamie Wyeth on the back of the book (and where the book gets its title) sums it up: “Everybody in my family paints, excluding possibly the dogs.” I learned so much from reading this book and it made me want to seek out even more of their work.

Visit an Art Museum!
The library has discount passes that you can reserve online and then pick up at the library before your visit. Reserve Passes Here.

Find Books (and more!) about Art and Artists at the library: See a List of Library Books on Art and Artists

  • Children’s, Teen, and Adult nonfiction – Check Dewey numbers 708 – 760
  • Artist Biographies (children’s, teen, and adult) – Look in biographies under the artist’s last name
  • DVDs – Nonfiction 708

 

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