More Than a Likeness: The Enduring Art of Mary Whyte (USC Press, hardcover, $75.00, on sale 9/30/13) by Martha Severens is the first comprehensive book on the life and work of Mary Whyte, one of today’s most renowned watercolorists.
From Whyte’s earliest paintings in rural Ohio and Pennsylvania to the riveting portraits of her Southern neighbors, art historian Martha Severens provides us with an intimate look into the artist’s private world.
With more than two hundred full-color images of Mary Whyte’s paintings and sketches as well as comparison works by masters such as Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and John Singer Sargent, Severens clearly illustrates how Whyte’s art has been shaped and how the artist forged her own place in the world today.
Though Whyte’s academic training in Philadelphia was in oil painting, she learned the art of watercolor on her own—by studying masterworks in museums. Today Whyte’s style of watercolor painting is a unique blend of classical realism and contemporary vision, as seen in her intimate portraits of Southern blue-collar workers and elderly African American women in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
“For me ideas are more plentiful than the hours to paint them, and I worry that I cannot get to all of my thoughts before they are forgotten or are pushed aside by more pressing concerns,” explains Whyte. “Some works take time to evolve. Like small seeds the paintings might not come to fruition until several years later, after there has been ample time for germination.”
Using broad sweeping washes as well as miniscule brushstrokes, Whyte directs the viewer’s attention to the areas in her paintings she deems most important. Murky passages of neutral colors often give way to areas of intense detail and color, giving the works a variety of edges and poetic focus. Several paintings included in the book are accompanied by enlarged areas of detail, showcasing Whyte’s technical mastery.
More Than a Likeness is replete with engaging artwork and inspiring text that mark the midpoint in Whyte’s artistry. Of what she will paint in the future, the artist says, “I have always believed that as artists we don’t choose our vocation, style, or subject matter. Art chooses us.”
About the artist:
Watercolor artist Mary Whyte is a teacher and author whose figurative paintings have earned national recognition. Her portraits are included in numerous corporate, private, and university collections as well as in the permanent collections of South Carolina’s Greenville County Museum of Art and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. Whyte’s work has been featured in International Artist, Artist, American Artist, Watercolor, American Art Collector, L’Art de l’Aquarelle, and many other publications. Whyte is the author of two books published by the University of South Carolina Press—Working South: Paintings and Sketches by Mary Whyte and Down Bohicket Road: An Artist’s Journey. She is also the author of Alfreda’s World, Painting Portraits and Figures in Watercolor, An Artist’s Way of Seeing, and Watercolor for the Serious Beginner. Whyte’s work can be found at Coleman Fine Art in Charleston. In 2013 Whyte was awarded the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award, South Carolina’s highest award in the arts.
About the author:
Martha Severens, an art historian, served as curator of the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, and the Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina. She has published studies of Charles Fraser, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Andrew Wyeth, Greenville’s Southern Collection, and the Charleston Renaissance.