By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new exhibit of works by American artist Andrew Wyeth is set to open next month in a land where the master realist exerted some of his greatest influence -- China.
The exhibit of more than 30 works by the well-known artist, who died in 2009, will open in Beijing on April 14, said Christie's auction house, which was set to announce the show that marks Wyeth's first-ever in China on Friday.
"The level of respect that Wyeth has among the artistic community in China is extremely high," said Christie's CEO Steven Murphy.
"His work really became available and popular among the current generation of artists when they were first coming up," Murphy told Reuters. "When the art community there was looking toward the West, in their youth, they resonated with his work in both subject matter and stylistically."
Wyeth, known for studying and capturing the quiet simplicity of the land and people around him at his homes in rural Pennsylvania and Maine, is most famed for "Christina's World," which depicts a young woman from behind as she reclines in a field. The work hangs in New York City's Museum of Modern Art.
His work inspired young Chinese artists to ask "Is it possible for us to hold on to the artistic training we grew up with, and still create something new that is different from Modernist art?" said academic consultant and art critic Li Xian Ting.
"Obviously, Wyeth provided them with such a possibility," added Li, who is director of Songzhuang Art Museum.
The exhibition will feature Wyeth's different approaches and styles through various creative periods, Christie's said.
A highlight is the premiere of a previously unknown work, "The Lovers," on loan from Wyeth's studio. The drybrush and watercolor on paper portrays Wyeth's muse Helga Testorf, nude and seated on stool, looking away as the afternoon sun streams in from an adjacent doorway.
The exhibit also will include the monumental portrait and compelling landscape, "Faraway," which features the artist's son, Jamie, as a young boy wearing a beaver skin hat.
Jamie Wyeth, who is lending the piece for the show, will be on hand for the opening in Beijing.
Several private collectors were also eager to lend their Wyeths for the historic show.
"Andy had said for years that he would love to exhibit his art in this country," said Warren Adelson of Adelson Galleries, which conceived and assembled the show along with Christie's. "And we all feel he is smiling at the prospect of showing these important works in Beijing."
The Beijing exhibit will run through May 12 at the YUAN Space, before traveling to Hong Kong's Convention and Exhibition Center from May 24-30. An exhibition at Christie's New York headquarters will follow in September.
"We have a responsibility to use our facility to bring art to people," Murphy said.
"Bringing this great American master's work across the globe to China, where it already has such cultural resonance, is just a great thing to be able to provide."
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)