Fayetteville Museum of Art

Fayetteville, NC





Andrew Wyeth and Bob Timberlake: Painting on Familiar Ground

May 21 - July 30, 2000


Andrew Wyeth has been recognized as one of America's pre-eminent realist painters most of his life. His best-known painting, "Christina's World," was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art when he was only 31 years old. He gained fame as a realist during the heyday of abstract expressionism. Despite the outcry of many of the abstractionists and their supporters, major museums in the United States added Wyeths to their collections of American art. He has had record-breaking exhibitions at the Metropolitan and Whitney Museums in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, the Art Institute in Chicago, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Wyeth made headlines in 1986 when it was revealed that he had completed over 250 works, over a 15 year period, of one model, Helga Testorf, and had kept them hidden -- even from his wife. The artist, now 82, still paints every day near his homes in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Benner Island, Maine. (left: Andrew Wyeth, Gable End, watercolor, © 1986)

North Carolina realist Bob Timberlake has drawn and painted since he was a child, but it was a 1965 article about Andrew Wyeth in Life Magazine that moved him to take his art seriously. A chance meeting with a friend of Wyeth led to an invitation for Bob to meet the artist. Wyeth looked at Timberlake's paintings and encouraged him to pursue his painting full time. In January, 1970, Bob Timberlake began painting full time. His first solo exhibition was held in May of that year in Old Salem at the Gallery of Contemporary Art (now SECCA). Every painting sold. Within a year, Bob Timberlake's paintings were being sold at Hammer Galleries in New York, who had a waiting list of collectors wanting to purchase them. Bob Timberlake has had solo exhibitions at numerous museums including the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, the Frye Museum in Seattle, and the Isetan Gallery in Japan. His work has been shown alongside that of Wyeth in several exhibitions of realist paintings. (left Bob Timberlake, photo by Mary Beth Gibson; right: Bob Timberlake, First Light, © 1995)

"Painting On Familiar Ground" is an exhibition that focuses on two artists who have found their inspiration literally on their doorstep. Andrew Wyeth has painted his life's work within a two-mile radius of his studio in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and a similarly-narrow slice of the Maine coastline. He has said "I think one's art goes as far and as deep as one's love goes. I see no reason for painting but that. If I have anything to offer, it is my emotional contact with the place where I live and the people I do". Bob Timberlake, likewise, has found his inspiration for a lifetime of painting around his home in Lexington, NC and the North Carolina Coast where he also has a studio. He has said "l paint the things that I am most familiar with and love the most...the things close to home."

This exhibition also focuses on the process of creating a work of art, with many preliminary sketches and working studies. Approximately 20 works by Wyeth and 20 works by Timberlake comprise the exhibition. The work from both artists spans from rare early childhood drawings to recently completed paintings. Many of the Wyeths are from a single private collection and most have never been exhibited publicly.


About Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth was born July 12, 1917, the youngest of five children of famed illustrator and artist Newell Convers Wyeth. Andrew, sickly as a child, never went to school but was trained by tutors at home. Andrew exhibited an amazing talent for drawing at an early age, and was brought into his father's studio for formal art training at age 15. He had his first New York solo exhibition in 1937 at the MacBeth Galleries. It was a complete sell-out. The artist was 20 years old.

The turning point in the life of Andrew Wyeth was the death of his father at a railroad crossing in 1945. His work up to this point consisted mostly of colorful impressionistic watercolors of the Maine coast. His father's death had a sobering influence on the younger Wyeth. The artist has said, "I think you have to have a reason for doing a creative thing, and my father's death gave me a terrific reason to paint." The first painting after his father's death was "Winter, 1946" (now in the N.C. Museum of Art, Raleigh). This painting exhibits the somber color palette and attention to detail that was to characterize Wyeth's work from this point on.

In 1948 the Museum of Modern Art in New York purchased Wyeth's tempera "Christina's World" and immediately exhibited it in a show of the most important American paintings in its permanent collection. By the late 1950's Andrew Wyeth's paintings were bringing the highest prices of any living American painter. His exhibitions in the 1960's at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Art Institute of Chicago broke ail attendance records. Time Magazine put him on the cover and Life Magazine devoted a feature article on him, calling him "America's pre-imminent artist."

Having come to fame at the time of the rise of abstract expressionism, modernist critics have often dismissed Wyeth for his narrative approach and commitment to realism. Wyeth has always seen himself as an "abstractionist", rather than a traditionalist, and has viewed his own work in the context of contemporary American painting. The critics have not deterred his being exhibited at the most prestigious museums in the land, nor in the marketplace.

At age 82, Andrew Wyeth still paints every day of the week, dividing his time between homes in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Benner Island, Maine, He and his wife Betsy have two sons: Jamie, a noted painter in his own right, and Nicholas, an art dealer who represents his father and brother's work. Betsy Wyeth has been working for years on the definitive catalogue raisonné of her husband's work.


About Bob Timberlake

Bob Timberlake is an internationally known realist painter who makes his home in Lexington, North Carolina. He graduated in 1959 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Industrial Relations. He was active in five family businesses and painted in his spare time until, at the age of 33, he was encouraged by Andrew Wyeth to devote himself full time to painting. Since then he has received many honors for his art and has exhibited at museums in the United States and Japan.


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