I feel compelled to note the passing of Andrew Wyeth, who reports indicate died in his sleep overnight.
More than knee-deep knowledge of the fine arts is not a strong suit of mine. But I happened to come upon an awareness of Andrew Wyeth and his work pretty early in life. Among the parents’ book collection when I was very young was a hard-cover, first edition coffee table-style compilation of his paintings, a body of work that even upon the 60’s era release of the nearly-too-hefty-for-my-spindly-arms-to-heft tome spanned decades. I would flip through it now and then—completely unaware that many of these works were created on the coast of my native state of Maine—and would contrive to glean some manner of the stories behind his tempera revelations.
In years since, the subset of visual 2D art that speaks most clearly to me leans in more abstract if not altogether absurd directions to the detriment of nurturing any awareness or interest in more realistic approaches to the application of paint to canvas. Wyeth always stuck with me though, especially after, as an older kid, I learned both of his significance and of his ties to Maine. I certainly recall the splash made by the mid-80s’ release of his Helga series, garnering extensive media attention and (if I recall correctly) the cover of Time magazine, a rash of buzz no doubt fueled in part by some of the semi-titillating personal details of the lives of artist and model during the several years bracketing the development of this extensive series.
Arguably his best-known work, Christina’s World (included in our household’s collection mentioned above) was always especially compelling. Eventually I’d learned that the title subject was a young woman beset by polio. Years ago, on a trip to New York, I went to MOMA and saw the actual painting. As it turns out, at the same time, I was in the employ of a large industrial facility a mere few miles up the road from the Cushing, Maine location of the house that appears in the background.
That was a very challenging time in my life, personally and professionally. Upon several occasions, I’d treat myself to a short drive down this particular mid-coast Maine peninsula, and would ponder my various roadblocks. And Christina’s.