Skill In His Genes

Today the weather was dull throughout without even the relief of the forecast drizzle. Jackie was trapped this morning in a dreaded two hour Tesco shop. While waiting for her in the car I had plenty of time to finish reading my book.

As so often years ago, when a book review had prompted me to buy a copy, I would leave the newspaper article slipped inside my purchase.

Normally I would write the date and source on the cutting. On this occasion I didn’t. I was therefore pleased to see

this snippet about Andy Irvine on the reverse. A little research established that the piece would have been published some time in March 1981.

I don’t normally give away much of the story of a volume I am featuring.

Philippa Toomey’s review, being itself an essential part of my tale for today, has, on this occasion, done it for me. Any review ending with ‘a very strange book indeed’ linked with the name Wyeth was bound to send me off to the Baker Street Bookshop managed by my friend Graham Charnock to order a copy, the delivery note of which, dated May 1981, fits with my research.

My copy of The Helga Pictures by Andrew Wyeth was the reason the name appealed. I now know that the Wyeths are dynasty of leading American illustrators dating back to N. C. Wyeth from the golden age of the early 20th Century.

Andrew was the husband of Betsy James and the father of Jamie.

This book was published simultaneously in America and Canada by Farrar Straus Giroux in 1979. To Pilippa Toomey’s review I would add that the narrative of Mrs Wyeth flows, surging with life, as do the exquisite drawings of her son, whose skill is in his genes.

In this selection of pages from the work I have been constrained by the format and the breadth of the artist’s vision. I could not include everything. As usual, a click on any image will access the gallery, each member of which can be viewed full size by clicking the box beneath the right hand corner. Further enlargement is also possible.

This evening we dined on roasted chicken thighs; crisp Yorkshire puddings; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and tender green beans with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, which, of course, was the reason for the Tesco shop; and I drank Western Cape Malbec 2019.


  1. It looks like an interesting book, Derrick. About a year ago, we went to an exhibition of Henriette Wyeth’s works at the Michener Museum, along with her more famous husband, photographer Peter Hurd. I liked her work more than his. The Brandywine River Museum is not too far away from us in Chadds Ford, PA, and it is mostly devoted to the Wyeths. Apparently Betsy just died this year, and the museum plans to do a tribute to her.

    1. Thank you for posting the link to the Brandywine River Museum, Merril. I watched the video tribute the Wyeths’ granddaughter created. It was so much fun to learn of the inspiration for so many of the paintings I’m familiar with.

  2. As a child, I always wanted a pet pig. That book looks interesting. I don’t know why, but I would have thought it was published earlier than 1979. Yum! Creamy mashed potatoes are my favorite. πŸ™‚

  3. Ah yes, I would agree totally, ” the narrative of Mrs Wyeth flows, surging with life” is wonderful – and “the exquisite drawings of her son, whose skill is in his genes” are so engaging! Thank you for sharing. I love your selections from the book.

  4. Andrew Wyeth is my favorite of the clan. I just was reading the NYTimes obituary of him, and came across this wonderful passage: “One art historian, in response to a 1977 survey in Art News magazine about the most underrated and overrated artists of the century, nominated Wyeth for both categories.” What could be better than that?

  5. Two hours to buy Hoegaardrn! The store must have been packed!
    Supper sounded wonderful and I like the sound of the Malbec too! Mine was a cheese sandwich with a Shiraz.

  6. Did you know that Andrew and Betsy Wyeth had a summer home in Maine? And son Jamie also lives part time in Maine. In Rockland, a small city on the coast about an hour from where I live, there is a museum dedicated to the Wyeths’ work.

  7. A delightful looking book, both story and illustrations. I can empathise with both of you for your long wait at the shop. I have taken to purchasing my weekly groceries at half past six in the morning – well before sunrise – to avoid the long, socially distanced, queues that form outside our supermarket, especially during the first and last weeks of every month. You were wise to take a book to read.

  8. The book illustrations are beautiful. How tedious for Jackie….2 hours in Tesco’s, glad she managed to get the said wine!

  9. You have to stop with those magnificent books with magnificent illustrations. I could spend my entire pension just on books you highlight.

  10. Definitely in their genes. I’ve always enjoyed their creativity and skill. So many of Mr. Andrew Wyeth’s paintings look like photographs to me! For years, one of my friends had a large framed copy/print of the painting Christina’s World on her wall. Her daughter had dark hair like the girl in the painting AND she couldn’t move without her wheelchair. For those reasons that painting had meaning to her.

    I enjoyed reading the pages you shared. What a delightful story! And the illustrations are so much fun. The expressions on the faces are amazing! The illustration of the two pigs laughing gave me a chuckle! πŸ™‚

    Oh, I hope Jackie was safe in the store. What a long adventure…but at least she returned with the treasure! πŸ˜‰ (Hoegaarden)

    We had fish and spicy beans for dinner!
    (((HUGS))) πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks very much, Carolyn. I’m pleased you like the Wyeths. People were much better behaved than often in the store – much of the time was queuing. Fish and spicy beans would do me nicely. X

  11. Those illustrations are simply marvelous. Thank you for sharing them with us. I wish I had a child around so we could discover it together. I am determined now to go find a copy. I, too, am a Wyeth fan. I was not aware of how many Wyeths were creators. πŸ™‚

      1. Yes, I did read all the comments, and I’ve already placed the book in my shopping cart online. Mine is a reasonable price, but can you believe hardcopies of this book are sold for hundreds of dollars? I’m eager to have my own copy. I just thought if I had a child with me as I went through the pages, it would amplify the delight. πŸ™‚ I’m half-child inside anyway, so I guess I could do child duties on my own, ha ha.

Leave a Reply