December 20, 2017 by AK
James Panero of The New Criterion has produced a puzzling review of “the traveling exhibition, ‘Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect’.”
Wyeth manipulated his compositions much like a silent film director… In his lack of authenticity and his chilly sentiment, Wyeth was decidedly unmodern. His artifice might be considered postmodern, even contemporary, as he processed the idioms of one medium through the materials of another…
At the same time, the approach was far from superficial for Wyeth. His compositions largely emerged from personal, psycho-cinematic places. His figures and locations all conveyed a personal if sublimated feeling.
Panero writes about Wyeth’s lifelong fascination with King Vidor’s silent film The Big Parade (1925) and an affinity between the two masters’ vision: “Vidor’s cinematic innovations were Wyeth’s great artistic inheritance…”. However, this somehow contributed, in Panero’s eyes, to Wyeth’s work being un-modern and inauthentic. It’s not too difficult to define modernity and authenticity in a way that would exclude Wyeth (and Vidor for good measure) but I don’t see much value in the exercise.
This said, James Panero’s piece opened up a new field for me, for which I am grateful. I soon found this article by Tag Gallager, an American film historian and critic. It is in a class of its own and deserves at least one separate post.