Wyeth, Andrew (1917-2009) Archive of Forty-three Signed Autograph Letters and Notes, with Sketches, Port Clyde, Maine; Chadds Ford, Pen
Wyeth, Andrew (1917-2009) Archive of Forty-three Signed Autograph Letters and Notes, with Sketches, Port Clyde, Maine; Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, August 1, 1937-March 24, 1939. A large group of autograph letters signed by Wyeth, all addressed to Alice Moore, 1935 Vassar College graduate; almost every letter is accompanied by its original envelope, included with some letters are press clippings, show catalogs, small black-and-white reproductions of some of Wyeth's work from print media, and a snapshot of Wyeth, many of these enclosed items are inscribed in Wyeth's hand; Wyeth's letters are accompanied by two letters from Wyeth's mother and two from his sister Carolyn, all addressed to the same recipient; letters and envelopes generally in good condition, sizes vary, housed in sheet protector sleeves in three large binders.
These letters record many details of Wyeth's earliest romantic relationship, which lasted for approximately two years. The time period coincides with Wyeth's emergence as a prominent force in the art world, while he was between the ages of twenty and twenty-two. They begin a few months before his first show at the Macbeth gallery in New York (October 19-November 1, 1937), and end at about the time Homer Saint-Gaudens extended an invitation to Wyeth to exhibit one of his tempera panels at the 1939 Carnegie International exhibition of contemporary art in Pittsburgh.
The love affair is characterized (our understanding based as it is solely on Wyeth's letters to Moore) by Wyeth's great yearning for Moore's companionship and his strong desire to marry her. He seems most preoccupied by proving that he can make a success of himself as an artist so that he can ask for her hand. The other predominant relationship theme in these letters is Wyeth's feeling of insecurity regarding Moore's feelings for him. He repeatedly states his belief that she doesn't love him, or his fear that she can't love him. In one stormy letter (described as such by Wyeth himself), written on October 21, 1938, he declares, "Oh God! If I was only a man that you loved not for his art but for himself alone, then I would be happy. Go ahead and laugh but you know that I am telling the truth. You are no more in love with me than I am with this table I am writing on. You are in love with what I might do in this world and that's what kills me." He writes again with contrition, five days later. "You certainly told the truth when you said I am an idiot. When I wrote you that letter I had been trying to do some painting along with jury duty and what I painted was just terrible and I lost my temper with everything. I don't want you to believe a thing I said against you in that letter and if I hurt you I only pray to God you won't hold it against me long."
In addition to the romantic content in the letters, Wyeth also includes much detailed information about specific works of art, his working habits and moods, his travels, social life, and reading. Wyeth writes about using egg tempera. "Well, I have been working in egg tempera for the last two weeks and by God, I like it." He writes about his portrait of the Maine fisherman, Charlie Ervine. "[A]nd [I] am now working on a portrait of a fellow who to me expresses Maine of today. Mr. Sidney Chase the artist who lives in Martinsville can't seem to understand why I should want to paint the worst drunk in Martinsville, but as I told him, I am not interested in painting the picturesque Maine of yesterday but want to paint it as it is today and to me this fellow is typical of Maine of today. [...] Thursday I went to the Union Fair and had a swell time, went up with several fellows from the port. Mr. Ervine went also and passed out. I will tell about it when I see you." Wyeth describes his habit of working, the look of the sea in Maine in the winter, the colors of the wet landscape, and how the buildings stand out in distinction, and other personal details of his work. "Friday I found a dead gull on the shore in front of my studio. He was so beautiful I took him in to the building and hung him up and painted a picture of it, and I think it's a good one. They are really to me one of the most stunning-looking birds I know. Have you ever looked at one closely? I did a water color of it first but I didn't get what I wanted so I did it in tempera."
The extent of the content (approximately 13,000 words), the intimate nature of the communication between these two parties, and the relatively sparse information on the artist from this time period combine to make this a substantial resource. Because the complete range of content cannot be easily described in this space, transcriptions of the complete archive will be made available to any interested parties.
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