By Peter V. Nielsen

Andrew Wyeth was born in 1917 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. In 1937 he had his first separate exhibition with watercolours in New York, which was fully sold out.

Andrew Wyeth has developed a personal and sophisticated technique in watercolour and egg tempera. In 1948 he painted Cristina’s World, which was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Now this picture has almost become an American National symbol, and it also became the turning-point in Andrew Wyeth's career as a painter. In the sixties he was - next to Picasso - the highest paid living artist. In 1963 he received the president’s Medal of Freedom by J. F. Kennedy, and in 1990 he received, as the first artist, the Congressional Gold Medal.

In 1971 Andrew Wyeth started, in secret, a long series of paintings of a local woman by the name of Helga Testorf. This work was not finished until 1985. These paintings are today circulating between large American museums as The Helga pictures.

Andrew Wyeth’s chronology of exhibition is given on the address: http://www.awyeth.com


A watercolour from Chadds Ford

The following story is about the Internet, a journey to Chadds Ford and something about the painter Andrew Wyeth.

Andrew Wyeth is a naturalistic painter. He chooses his motives from the village Chadds Ford in Pennsylvania - or in the summer - from Cushing in Maine. The motives are the fields, the farms and the people around him. They are painted in a realistic stile, with motives which are atypical for our time, and they show a bleak and unsentimental atmosphere, which means that you get strongly attached to the paintings. You can feel the wind, hear the sounds and smell the countryside, and you will see a technique of watercolour, which is incredibly beautiful, highly skilled and still free, with lot of space for abstractions and fortuitousness.

The artist’s paintings from a whole life are telling a continuous history about Chadds Ford and its inhabitants. A new painting is not only an independent work; it is also a piece of a mosaic, which you are going to build, when you know his other paintings.

At a certain point I got interested in seeing this town, meet the motives, see if Andrew Wyeth’s world is present today, as it is experienced in his paintings, and see if I can find inspiration to paint in this area.




As a first step to find Chadds Ford I made the map from a number of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings. The map shows the location of a number of important motives.

Mother Archie’s church is an old octagonal building, which originally was a school for the local Quakers. Mother Archie served before the First World War as a minister of a black community in the area, and the building was later deserted. Adam Johnson’s house was another motive for Andrew Wyeth, and especially Kuerner’s farm has been a motive for a great deal of the artist’s paintings. Many of the paintings in the surroundings show a hill top covered by a few pines which Andrew Wyeth called Kuerner’s hill.

I decided to go to the United States to paint a watercolour of this hill.

The starting point for the travel was the sketch of the surroundings as well as the knowledge that the area is located one mile from the village Chadds Ford in Pennsylvania. But it was not possible to find this area from maps or by contact to tourist agencies.

The Internet showed to be a great help. A searching on the name "Chadds Ford" localized Chadds Ford as an estate in the southeast of Pennsylvania close to the cities West Chester and Kennett Square. It was possible to find a map on the Internet with details down to roads and tracks. This gave a fine possibility to look for Kuerner’s hill by comparing with my own sketch and, among others; I choose the following map section with the red mark as a likely location.

I landed in Newark Monday the 8th September at 1.10 p.m., and a few hours later I was on my way to Pennsylvania in a rented car. I went through the area just before sunset, and next morning I found Kuerner’s Hill. The watercolour was made, and it shows that only a single pine is left at the hill top different from the group of trees seen on many of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings.

Many other things have changed. Mother Archie’s church is a ruin, and the black community has left many years ago. The farming area, described by Andrew Wyeth,

My painting of Kuerner’s hill

is today a residential neighbourhood with exclusive houses, and only Kuerner’s farm is left in its original atmosphere, almost hidden behind a dense growth of trees, very different from the bare building shown in Andrew Wyeth’s paintings.

The Internet shows many of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings on the address: