I feel as though Henry Allen has personally pummeled me in his review of the Wyeths exhibition {"The Wistful Realm of the Wyeths," Style, July 3}. To start with, there is throughout the article an ill-concealed disparagement of certain social classes, WASPs (he uses the word four times) and cultural surrogates that leaves me reeling for air. And if this were not enough, he has used faint praise to call into question my appreciation of the Wyeths when "Modernists" ("the metaphysical divines of the more cosmopolitan art world") hold the tribe in such contempt.

That the Helgas are not Wyeth's best work and that he and his kinsmen do not produce masterpieces every time they paint is to be expected. But their detractors seize upon these lesser moments with a fervor that only confirms the Wyeths' standing in 20th-century art history. Surely they are as much a part of that history as the Modernists -- and happily we can still expect much more from them.

I think where Allen errs is in juxtaposing Wyeth and the Realists with Modernists in a narrow, 20th-century context. Let me humbly suggest that the (Andrew) Wyeth phenomenon is timeless. His autumn and winter landscapes are echoed in age-old Japanese haiku. Among contemporary Western artists they most closely conform to the artistic concepts of shibui, wabe, and sabe that are among Japan's most important artistic legacies. Many contemporary oriental artists still work in this tradition -- my favorites are the print maker Tanaka Ryohei and the potter Minoru Nishikawa. In fact, a trip to the Freer Gallery might not be bad preparation for the Corcoran.

Closer to home there is the 19th-century Barbizon School, Dr. Atl's majestic Mexican volcanoes and Ansel Adams, among many others. And did we not glimpse something of Wyeth in the great Russian painter Levitan, several of whose landscapes were included in "Russia, The Land, The People," which graced the Renwick earlier this year?

Allen may have categorized technique and subject matter as 20th-century Realist but what appeals is much deeper and more universal. And ironically, the criticism leveled by Allen and the Modernists is but a part of the artistic dialectic that marks the passage from one art to another. In the art world such critical reaction has always accompanied anything important that is new, different or, in this case, nonconforming. So let us put the Wyeth "debate" in context and get on with the serious business of enjoying their art.

A footnote: If you haven't already done so, visit the small room in the National Gallery (at the end closest to the East Wing) where Wyeth's "Wind From the Sea" hangs alongside several other of his good paintings. It is a bequest from a wonderful man, the late Charles Morgan, who was my art history teacher at Amherst College a long time ago. Well before Wyeth was Wyeth, Morgan recognized the greatness and, happily for all of us, acquired the painting. The room where it hangs is small and dark. Be prepared to stay for a long time. -- Chris Parel