Public Papers

Remarks on Presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to Andrew Wyeth


The President. Welcome, welcome.

Mr. Wyeth. What a day!

The President. We're so proud to have you here. Please be seated. Well, apologies for keeping you standing and waiting. But first, just a warm White House welcome to Andrew Wyeth, I'd say; to John Frohnmayer; and of course, to our distinguished Members of the Congress, Senators Heinz and Specter and, of course, Dick Schulze, who did so much to make this day possible. Welcome to all of you members of the family. We are very pleased, sir, to welcome you to the White House, and we're pleased to be honoring this man who has so honored his country with his art.

As the legislative citation reads: We act today in recognition of Andrew Wyeth's outstanding and invaluable contributions to American art and culture. His detail-loving paintings of his native Pennsylvania and of Maine magnificently evoke homes and landscapes and friends, somehow familiar and dear to us all.

He is, of course, one of America's foremost artists. He is known for his mastery of difficult technique and, especially, for the realism of his work. And I, too, have been trying locally -- though not yet with Mr. Wyeth's success -- to encourage a certain realism among the congressional budget artists. [Laughter] And I wish I had Dick Schulze's mastery, where he could get something passed unanimously -- [laughter] -- in the House of Representatives like he did this tribute to Mr. Wyeth.

But you, sir, are no stranger to this place. In 1963 President Kennedy chose to award Mr. Wyeth the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the first artist to be so honored. Saying that this man had caught the heart of America in 1970, President Nixon sponsored an unprecedented exhibition of Andrew Wyeth's paintings at the White House.

Today it is evident that Andrew Wyeth has caught the heart not only of America; internationally he has, for example, been honored by the French Academy of Fine Arts and the Soviet Academy of the Arts. His works have been exhibited and admired from England to Japan.

I am delighted to present yet another first: the first Congressional Gold Medal awarded to an artist. The Treasury Department's medal itself is quite simple and beautiful. It features a profile of Andrew Wyeth from a portrait by his son Jamie. Jamie, like Andrew, has learned much from a talented father.

So, sir, your family, your friends, your admirers everywhere join Barbara and me in extending sincere best wishes and congratulations as you receive the Andrew Wyeth Congressional Gold Medal. Congratulations, and we're so proud to have you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:11 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to John Frohnmayer, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and Representative Richard T. Schulze.