Fathers and sons who share their artistic pursuits
By Kristin Hoerth
This story was featured in the February 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art February 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
Last month I got to see the wonderful exhibition Wyeth: Andrew and Jamie in the Studio at the Denver Art Museum. It was the first time I had seen so many pictures by Andrew Wyeth in one place, and the first time I had seen Jamie Wyeth’s work in person. As many other visitors have commented, it was fascinating to see their pictures together, to see the places where there was overlap in subject matter or style and the places where there was great difference. The artists shared, for example, a love of coastal Maine and its inhabitants. But where Andrew’s works have a starkness—an “airless” quality, as his son has called it—Jamie’s works, by comparison, are frequently lush in both color and texture.
Aside from the paintings, one thing that caught my eye was a black-and-white photograph of the two men, father and son, caught in what seems to be a moment of great joy: embracing, both men laughing, Andrew looking at Jamie, Jamie gesturing toward the photographer. Seeing that interaction made me wonder about the family dynamics at play: the son following in the footsteps of the celebrated father, the father mentoring his son and watching him develop his own artistic spirit and fame. What might it be like to balance the joys of a shared pursuit with the inevitable challenges of competition and independence? Of course, it wasn’t just these two generations; Andrew followed in the footsteps of his own father, famed illustrator N.C. Wyeth.
This month’s issue includes another artistic family who deals with the dynamics of shared pursuit on a daily basis: Highly regarded painter Dan McCaw shares a large urban studio just south of Los Angeles with his two sons, John and Danny, both of whom are also fine painters [see My World]. While the three men have individual styles, they share very similar aesthetics. One might think things could sometimes get a bit too close for comfort, but aside from minor disagreements, the opposite is true. “The pluses far outweigh the negatives,” says John. Adds Danny, “Being an artist is an insecure, lonely thing at times. Having people around you that you trust and respect is huge. There is always encouragement and support.”
There are many other artistic families out there, and while their shared pursuits are certainly not the primary things that define them as artists, they’re an interesting part of the mix. I hope you enjoy learning more about the backgrounds of all the artists in this issue.
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