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US realist painter Andrew Wyeth has died

Latest update : 2009-01-16

US painter Andrew Wyeth, aged 91, has died in his home in Philadelphia. He was famous for landscapes of his native Pennsylvania and Maine and his sometimes-melancholy style. He was one of the first artists to exhibit in the White House.

AFP - US realist painter Andrew Wyeth, whose paintings depict rural life in America, has died at his home in Pennsylvania at the age of 91, a spokeswoman at the Brandywine River Museum, which has an extensive collection of his work, said Friday.

Wyeth had been suffering from a "slight illness" and died in his sleep in the early hours of Friday at his home in Chadd's Ford near Philadelphia, Lora Englehart, the museum's public relations coordinator, told AFP.

Born on July 12, 1917 in Chadd's Ford, the youngest of five children of muralist and children's book illustrator Newell Convers Wyeth, Wyeth was home-schooled by his parents -- including in art.

He held his first one-man show of watercolors, one of his favorite media, at a gallery in New York when he was 20. The show was a sell-out.

His best-known paintings include "Christina's World," which depicts a neighbor of the Wyeth family at their summer residence in Maine, and the Helga pictures, a compilation of tempera and dry brush paintings, watercolors and pencil studies of a Chadd's Ford neighbor, German-born Helga Testorf.

From 1971 to 1985, Wyeth created more than 240 works featuring Testorf without telling anyone, including his wife.

Wyeth's prints are said to have been popular with world leaders including former Soviet leader Nikolai Krushchev and US president Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The popular artist received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian award, from president John F. Kennedy in 1963, and in 1970 became the first living artist to exhibit in the White House.

Seven years later, he became the first American artist since John Singer Sargent to be elected to the French Académie des Beaux-Arts.

He was also an honorary member of the Soviet Academy of the Arts and the first living American artist to be elected to Britain's Royal Academy.

Wyeth is survived by his wife Betsey, whom he met one summer in Maine when he was in his twenties, and two sons -- Nicholas, an art dealer, and James, a painter.

The Brandywine River Museum plans to hold "a celebration of his life and art," but no date has been set.

Date created : 2009-01-16