“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”