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Andrew Wyeth - Much Adieu About Christina & Helga
Andrew Wyeth is an extraordinary painter of landscapes. Christina Olson's house in Cushing, Maine (now on the National Registry of Historic Places) is seen in "Christina's World" (1948). The house and barn were juxtaposed by the artist for this painting. Wyeth used "artistic license" which I have discussed in another article by the same name.
Wyeth's wife Betsy was the model for "Christina's World," representing the young girl who was afflicted with polio. The artist painstakingly paints the grass blades and strands of hair. The style is considered Magic Realism. According to MOMA in New York where the painting now hangs, it is described as: when "everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery."
I would agree that "Christina's World" is as much an American Icon as Grant Wood's "American Gothic" (1930).
Another landscape of sorts would be the Helga series. Yes, I am speaking "tongue in cheek" as Helga Testorf is painted in the nude. But Wyeth is obsessive in that there are 247 studies of said model. Painted between 1971 and 1985, it is difficult to believe that neither his wife Betsy nor Helga's husband knew of the sittings. While Cezanne painted mountains repetitively, Wyeth painted the landscape of the human body.
Helga is not any model, she is Wyeth's model, standing, kneeling, and laying down. One feels a sense of trust between artist and model, and a deeply personal connection.
Looking at his painting "Black Velvet" (1972). Like Manet's "Olympia," Helga is laying down, in this case on a black velvet fabric. She does wear a black choker similar to that of Manet's model. Wyeth claimed it was a coincidence.
In 1987, the Helga series, as they were known, were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The entire collection was purchased by millionaire E.B. Andrews in 1986 but is now owned by a private Japanese interest.
I find the feel of Wyeth's landscapes to be of wonderful earthy tones. You would be hard pressed to find a blue sky, and no contrasting colors, the color palette is the color of nature Herself (sorry guys).
The critics of Wyeth have been unkind in part because his medium of choice was watercolor and egg tempura. He chose not to use traditional oil paints. Taken to be less of a compliment than what he rightly deserves, Wyeth has been called an illustrator by some. Whatever your opinion may be, one cannot dismiss the attention to detail and emotion that is expressed in his brushstrokes.
You can own a print of "Christina's World," available here from Amazon.com.
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