Andrew Wyeth’s letter to Vidor wrote:
“For years I have wanted to write and tell you that I consider your war film The Big Parade the only truly great film ever produced. Over the years I have viewed the film many, many times and [with] each showing the certainty of its greatness deepens…I have always viewed it with awe and must tell you that in many abstract ways it has influenced my paintings.”
Tag Gallagher wrote:
“Filming is nothing but seeing”, said one artist.
Not what you see, but how you see it. Anyone can learn to film the things that are there. But to film the things that one merely suspects to be there, that is the sort of task that makes life interesting.
The artist was Rembrandt van Rijn, supposedly, and he said “painting”, not “filming”. But Rembrandt’s paradoxical attitude toward “realism” was shared by both filmmakers and painters in the 20th century. And what some of the Americans among them, notably King Vidor and Andrew Wyeth, “suspected to be there” was what Wyeth called “an American quality”. Though Wyeth was schooled on Albrecht Dürer and detailed each blade of grass, he made sure it was American grass, for what Wyeth sought was an American consciousness independent of Europe.
[It’s] an indigenous thing you’re born with. […] It’s the quality of the early weather vanes, the hinges on the doors. It’s very hard to pinpoint. (2) You have to peer beneath the surface. The commonplace is the thing, but it’s hard to find. Then if you believe in it, have a love for it, this specific thing will become a universal. (3)
“Know it spiritually”, Wyeth’s father, also a painter, had taught him. “Be a part of it.” (4) And such had been the counsel of America’s revered sages – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman – and of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science to which King Vidor dedicated his life’s work. Both artists sought to express an American consciousness of American people, places and things.
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