I’ve got a secret.Andrew Wyeth, “Black Velvet” 1972
You might have noticed that this blog has taken a little detour from its original purpose (a recap of my day in the studio) over the past few days, with nary a warning, not even a detour sign to tip you off.
Sorry about that. The no warning part, not the detour itself part.
Here’s your warning, albeit a little late.
I’m doing a secret commission. It’s a gift for someone from the friend who commissioned it, and he asked that I not post about it until the gift has been given. So even though I actually have been in the studio working, I’m not allowed to show you my progress.
I’m not the only artist who has secrets, or does secret work. Remember Andrew Wyeth’s “Helga” paintings? He spent fifteen years painting Helga, his model, in secret. He didn’t even tell his wife, Betsy, who manages the business side of his art practice. And she never suspected because all the time he was secretly painting Helga, he continued to produce as many “public” works as he had before taking up his clandestine practice.
Whew! That’s some painting stamina!
I know that not everyone is a fan of Andrew Wyeth. He’s been the subject of much controversy over whether he is a “real” artist or just a sentimental hack since he first appeared on the art world’s horizon in the 1940s. I, however, have been a fan of his for decades. In fact, one of the very first art books I ever bought for myself was “Three Generations of Wyeth Art.” (I actually am an even bigger fan of his father, N.C. Wyeth, and his brushy oil illustrations for every classic young adult book from “Treasure Island” to “The Last Mohican.”)
Richard and I had the opportunity to see a few of the Helga paintings when they were shown a number of years back at the Seattle Art Museum. They were impressive, and very dark, mood-wise. Even more so than Wyeth’s well-known paintings, which don’t exactly make you want to get up and dance a jig. There was something slightly twisted about them, and whether that was because we knew their secret history, or because Wyeth intended them that way, I don’t know. They were, just, sorta weird.
I guarantee the secret commission I’m working on right now is not twisted, nor is it a secret from my husband, Richard. It’s actually one of the most fun paintings I’ve done in a while. But you’ll just have to wait.
In the meantime, if you want to read what Betsy Wyeth had to say about her husband’s secret life of fifteen years, click here for a 1986 article from the New York Times.