Unknown Terrain: The Landscapes of Andrew Wyeth makes an irresistible case for ignoring both Wyeth's sentimental champions and his cynical detractors. It's easy to understand either pole of opinion about this very American painter, but harder to get to the essence of what makes him excite such vehemence. In the end, it may simply be that he is very, very good, and like all good painters, a little too complicated for most critics.
For one thing, while Wyeth does have a special sensitivity for suggestive narrative elements, he is also an abstract painter, with a powerful sense of gesture, stroke, and pattern. Some of his watercolors are as thrusting and liquid as Jackson Pollock's drips, and almost as nonobjective. Other compositions can be as fixed as Christina's World, the huge 1948 painting for which he is perhaps best known, but within the strictly ordered confines of tempera, a painstaking medium, he still handles the brush with bravura. The authors of Unknown Terrain make an attempt to elucidate Wyeth's relationship to this century, and they succeed admirably--with the help of nearly 200 reproductions. [via]