Combining the narrative qualities of his grandfather, N.C. Wyeth, with the haunting realism of his father, Andrew, Jamie Wyeth has defined a visual language of his own that makes him one of the most recognized and engaging contemporary artists working in the realist tradition. "It is a type of realism, invented to meet the demands of illustration and mechanical reproduction, that N.C. largely perfected: dramatic intensity through theatrical lighting effects; a bold, although relatively limited palette of saturated color; strong, firm outline; close-up perspective placing the viewer in the action of the depicted scene; elimination of all superfluous detail to concentrate attention on the critical, telling moment." (Wondrous Strange: The Wyeth Tradition, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 127)
Maine is part of the Wyeth legacy--N.C. had a house and studio in Port Clyde and Andrew maintained a residence in Cushing. In 1978, Andrew purchased the light house known as both Tenants Harbor Light and Southern Island Light. Built in 1857, the lighthouse marks the southwestern entrance to Penobscot Bay. The structure has been featured prominently in compositions by both Andrew and Jamie, who now owns the lighthouse and maintains a studio within.
Finding inspiration in the familiar subjects that surround his everyday life, Wyeth is able to elevate the seemingly mundane to a highly regarded and thought provoking subject. In Lighthouse Dandelions, painted in 1997, Wyeth depicts the lighthouse, and its respective Keeper's House, which hint at an ambiguously whimsical yet poignant narrative of coastal Maine. Seen from below, the lighthouse adopts an imposing quality, particularly when set against a dramatic night sky filled with dark, nebulous gray clouds. The composition is bathed in swaths of bold yellow light, which casts a distinct pall across the white of the lighthouse; patches of green grass take on an almost neon quality. A field of dandelions and some accompanying yellow blooms appear to dance in the wind across the foreground. The lone sign of life is the illuminated lantern room, indicating that the keeper has been minding the tower. Wyeth successfully reveals the subjects of his native Maine from unusual vantage points that ultimately take on a visual narrative the define his work and account for the distinctive character of his depictions of Maine. In Lighthouse Dandelions, Wyeth creates a scene of deceptively picturesque quietude, yet one where the air is thick with a sense of brooding, mystery and isolation.
This work is included in the database of the artist's work being compiled by the Wyeth Center at the William A. Farnsworth Museum Rockland, Maine.