An artist in his own right, and a model for the Wyeths JIMMY LYNCH, 1944-2008

Posted: June 29, 2008

Jimmy Lynch, 63, formerly of Chadds Ford, "an appealing vagabond," artist and artist's model who was the subject of several important paintings by Andrew Wyeth and his son, Jamie, died of hypertension and heart arrhythmia June 4 at his home in Lewisburg, W.Va.

Mr. Lynch grew up in Chadds Ford, two doors down from the Wyeths. Jamie Wyeth, just two years older, became a buddy. "I taught him to drive and he showed me what New York was," Mr. Lynch told a reporter in 1988. When galleries assigned a limousine to Jamie Wyeth for exhibit openings, "I'd sit in the back, play the guitar, and we'd think we were the Beatles or something."

Mr. Lynch returned the favor when he helped Jamie Wyeth rescue a large sow that was about to be slaughtered. The animal became the subject of one of Jamie Wyeth's most famous paintings, Portrait of a Pig. Mr. Lynch himself was the subject of another important Jamie Wyeth work, Draft Age, painted in 1965 during the Vietnam War. Mr. Lynch is shown in a defiant pose wearing a leather jacket and wraparound sunglasses. Ironically, Mr. Lynch had tried to enlist in the Army several years earlier, his sister, Nancy Dowling said, but was turned down because of a minor medical problem.

From the time he was 5, Mr. Lynch was the model for Andrew Wyeth for several paintings, including the 1969 Swinger, the 1970 Afternoon Flight, and the 1990 Man and the Moon.

Mr. Lynch's own water colors and oils, which were the subject of a show at the Somerville-Manning Gallery in Greenville, Del., in 1998, were described as "full of softness and quietude" and included luminous landscapes of West Virginia, where he had lived since 1993.

Though his art was exhibited at several galleries and three of his paintings are in the collection at the Brandywine River Museum, along with work by the Wyeths, Mr. Lynch was best known to Chadds Ford locals as a quirky Huck Finn.

"Jimmy introduced himself to strangers and soon knew their life stories," his sister said. "He was charismatic and charming." He hung out at Hank's diner in Chadds Ford, camped in the woods, and drove a red ambulance and later a Greyhound bus. Andrew Wyeth described him as an "appealing vagabond."

"He is a constant reminder that artists need not be all that serious," artist Rea Redifer told a reporter in 1998. Redifer, who died last month, was a mentor to Mr. Lynch.

"I did everything from writing folk music to being in the movies," Mr. Lynch said in the 1998 article. He dropped out of school after eighth grade and lived in Chadds Ford until moving to West Virginia, where he painted and cleared trails, baled hay, and tended horses on his wife's family's farm.

He and Jennifer "Tootie" Jones married in 1992 and had a son, Everett James O'Flaherty. Flaherty was the name of Mr. Lynch's biological father.

He customarily used his stepfather's name, Lynch. When he used Flaherty, he added an O.

After Mr. Lynch and his wife divorced in 1998, they remained friends, and he continued to live on the farm.

At a memorial service at the Chapel at Big Bend in Chadds Ford on June 13, some of Mr. Lynch's ashes were fired from a cannon toward Brandywine Creek.

In addition to his sister, son and former wife, Mr. Lynch is survived by a brother, John Lynch, and stepdaughter, Rece Woods Lynn.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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