He was born in Pennsylvania in 1917, the son of the painter and illustrator N.C. Wyeth whose illustrations graced the covers of most of our childhood books - Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Robin Hood. The elder Wyeth was demanding character who early decided that Andrew was the most talented of his children and trained him as an artist. Richard Lacayo of Time postulated that Wyeth's spare, technically demanding work was a reaction against the his father's bravura paintings of pirates and outlaws. His father also marked Wyeth's life strongly in one other way. In 1945 the elder Wyeth, along with his 4-year-old grandson by Andrew's brother Nat, was killed when his car stalled on a railroad track. It was an event that Wyeth's biographer, Richard Meryman, says split Wyeth's life in two, so that he spent the rest of it "processing the first 28 years — a long, unraveling of love and guilt and rage." (Lacayo, Obit from the Times)
His works inhabits the imaginary landscape of a pastoral America (one which Wyeth most assuredly did not inhabit with his wealth and popularity). It's an inward, somber world, saturated with melancholy and presented with virtuoso skill in two of the most demanding mediums an artist can work in - watercolor and egg tempera.
In the late 1930s his brother-in-law, Peter Hurd, taught him to paint in egg tempera, a medium which predates oil paint. It's a demanding medium; the pigments, mixed with egg yolk thinned with water, dry quickly, so reworking is difficult.
An artist who uses this technique uses small brushes to make tiny strokes, which results in a smooth, seamless picture surface. This suited him perfectly; as he once explained, "My aim is to escape from the medium with which I work, to leave no residue of technical mannerism to stand between my expression and the observer." (Obit from the Philadelphia Inquirer).