Friday, January 16, 2009

"Was He Still Alive?"

I shall be interested to see what sort of obituaries are published following the announcement of the death of Andrew Wyeth. When Jean-Paul Sartre died in 1980 (on April 15, in ironic date in light of many of his critical views about the United States), it seemed as if many of my friends reacted by asking, "Was he still alive?" I honestly cannot remember the last time I heard Wyeth's name raised in any context; nor do I recall reading any accounts of the retrospective exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2006 (which, according to the report in the London Telegraph "drew more than 175,000 visitors in 15½ weeks, the highest-ever attendance at the museum for a living artist"). Worse, it is now hard for me to think of any reference to "Christina's World" as being anything more than a cliché (which probably has less to do with any aesthetic criteria and more to do with the overexposure the painting has suffered). The Telegraph report includes an Agence France-Presse photograph of George W. Bush with his arm over Wyeth's shoulder, which (accidentally?) raises the question of legacy. Whether Wyeth's legacy will fade into the same shadows of insignificance that now cloak Sartre, at least it will not suffer the infamy of the last President to honor him.

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