Saturday, January 17, 2009

American Art 101: Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth, one of the most popular and also most lambasted artists in the history of American art, a reclusive linchpin in a colorful family dynasty of artists from tiny Chadds Ford, Penn., whose precise realist views of hardscrabble rural life became icons of national culture and sparked endless debates about the nature of modern art, has died at his home in suburban Philadelphia, The Associated Press reported. He was 91...

“One picture encapsulated his fame. 'Christina’s World' became an American icon like Grant Wood’s 'American Gothic,' or Whistler’s portrait of his mother or Emmanuel Leutze’s 'Washington Crossing the Delaware.'

“Wyeth had seen Christina Olson, crippled from the waist down, dragging herself across a Maine field, 'like a crab on a New England shore,' he recalled. To him she was a model of dignity who refused to use a wheelchair and preferred to live in squalor rather than be beholden to anyone. It was dignity of a particularly dour, hardened, misanthropic sort, to which Wyeth throughout his career seemed to gravitate. Olson is shown in the picture from the back. She was 55 at the time. (She died 20 years later, having become a frequent subject in his art; her death made the national news thanks to Wyeth’s popularity.)

“It is impossible to tell her age in the painting or what she looks like, the ambiguity adding to the overall mystery. So does the house, which Wyeth called a dry-bone skeleton of a building, a symbol during the Depression of the American pastoral dream in a minor key, the house’s whitewash of paint long gone, its shingles warped, the place isolated against a blank sky. As popular paintings go, 'Christina’s World' is remarkable for being so dark and humorless, yet the public seemed to focus less on its gothic and morose quality and more on the way Wyeth painted each blade of grass, a mechanical and unremarkable kind of realism that was distinctive if only for going against the rising tide of abstraction in America in the late 1940’s.”

-- “Andrew Wyeth, Famed and Infamous Artist, Dies at 91”


beektur said...

I was surprised when I first read this news. Buhay pa pala siya until today. I first saw Christina's World on the back cover of Reader's Digest (or is it Readers Digest). (Same with Picasso's Blue Guitarist, which is in Chicago's Art Institute Museum). Christina belongs to MOMA. The first time I saw it, hanging in the lobby of the museum, was an exhilirating exprience, almost spiritual. I'm sure you had the same experience in the Louvre: hundreds of glossy reprints in magazines and books can not replace one piece of work hanging on the wall -- as real as when the artist painted it.

Brian Shane said...

Truly wonderful.

gibbs cadiz said...

yes, BEEKTUR, nothing like seeing the real winged victory of samothrace and all those paintings. :) re christina's world, i too find the painting compelling, mysterious, unnerving. i wonder why professional art critics don't. :)

thank you, BRIAN. :)

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