For over a half century, Andrew Wyeth's art has proven to be the most endearing of any American realist, and has brought the artist acclaim at home and abroad. Scholars and collectors alike appreciate his work for its seeming simplicity and its sheer beauty, and for its celebration of American life. Whether seen in an empty cornfield after harvest, in the wrinkled face of an old man, or in an enduring image from our nation's history, Wyeth's paintings bear witness to the passage of time.
"From the start of his career, Andrew Wyeth has been very much aware of those things that endure and those that pass away. His is an art which does not dwell upon itself or upon topical issues of the day, but one that ponders elemental, timeless moments of wonder in the presence of nature. Wyeth's regard for nature includes human beings, their actions, qualities of mind, and outward appearance." (S.C. Larsen in Wondrous Strange: The Wyeth Tradition, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 18)
Painted to commemorate the two hundreth anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine, which was fought near the Wyeth's family home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Roll Call exhibits the hallmarks of Andrew Wyeth's most powerful works. Here, he divides the composition diagonally, the tension of the ropes supporting the tent creating a sense of motion and energy in the work. The soldier's lower body stands in the shadow cast by the still rising sun, while this upper body basks in the early morning glow. Wyeth uses the white drumhead as another source of light, reflecting the sun as does the white in the British flag. The right half of the canvas is uninhabited, emphasizing the expansiveness of the landscape. Rather than focusing on the revolutionary battles themselves, the artist captures a serene morning moment, perhaps on a morning of surrender.
More than a masterwork of Wyeth's career, Roll Call is also a testament to the artist's sense of patriotism and his pride in our shared national heritage. "It is what occurs in a Wyeth painting between conception and completion that sets it apart from almost every other contemporary realist and gives it that added dimension of character, conviction, and, upon various occasions, wonder and enchantment, that is so recognizably his. Wyeth embarks upon a painting as though upon a journey. He may know precisely where he is going, and how he is to get there, but, more often than not, his deepest creative satisfaction, as well as the special significance of a particular work of art, derive, not so much from his successful arrival at the destination, as from what he discovers and invents along the way." (T.F. Wolff in Wondrous Strange: The Wyeth Tradition, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 93)
This watercolor will be included in Betsy James Wyeth's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.