Andrew Wyeth Christinas World
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Andrew Wyeth is the fifth child of a well known American illustrator and artist Newell Convers Wyeth who illustrated well loved editions of Treasure Island , Robin Hood and the Last of the Mohicans among many other books. Andrew was a sickly child who was educated at home and his father, to whom he was very close, gave him a secure grounding in draughtsmanship. The subsequent death of his father in in a tragic accident when a train struck his car at a level crossing had a deep effect on Wyeth, intensifying the melancholic vein already noticeable within his work.
This picture was painted three years after the death of Wyeth senior. A young girl sprawls in a slightly odd pose in the midst of a prairie-like expanse of grassland. She has her back to us and she gazes up a steady incline to a house and a barn which occupy the crest of the hill. A track makes its way from the house and exits the scene to our right; the occupants of the house have erected a desultory fence around a small part of their land and they have mowed some of the grass to create the feeling of an enclosure for the buildings. But apart from this nothing impinges upon the smooth rise of the land and the texture of the grass which covers it.
This featureless domain separating girl from house creates a tension which deepens when certain details concerning the young woman who modelled for the girl become apparent. Christina Olsen lived near to the Wyeth family summer home in Cushing, Maine. Created in , the meaning of this piece of art extends beyond a sad story of a person with a muscle degeneration condition. The initial interpretation of the painting pertains to the idea of significant limits imposed on a human being due to a health condition as destructive as the one Christina had Potter, This idea is also conveyed by the contrast between an open-spaced landscape and the helpless pose of the girl. The openness of the landscape with the house on the horizon is a symbol of all the possibilities Christina lost due to her illness.
The condition she suffered from was undiagnosed at the time Potter, , p. The hidden face of a particular person might be a generalization of all people with disabilities, who are denied certain possibilities in life due to their illness. Wyeth once admitted that if he had decided to paint this work again, he would have done it without depicting any human form Fischer, , p. From another point of view, the artwork could be meant to convey the feeling of being lost after the atrocities of the World War II. As it was painted three years after the end of the war, the overall atmosphere of isolation of the painting vividly expresses the idea of the years lost in the struggle, and the loved ones lost in battles.
The feeling of emptiness, typical of post-war societies, could be one of the messages Wyeth meant to communicate. He is known to have admitted that the major reason why he wanted to master the tempera is the discipline required for this technique Fischer, , p. It is explained by the fact that this technique demands a careful and thorough control of the process of paint mixing. Admittedly, it is a technique that is rather time-consuming and generally demanding, but it allowed Wyeth to convey the melancholy that can have manifold interpretation. The interpretation of the painting pertaining to the post-war years is an important aspect of unlocking the symbols of the artwork.
The feeling of emptiness and perplexity, felt by those who lost someone in the war, is expressed in the open landscape with a house on the horizon. The idea of distance between the people dear to each other is what makes the painting so melancholy. The idea of distance and isolation from the society are conveyed by adding an element of harsh truth: the more isolated one is due to a variety of reasons, the more hurtful one finds the reality one has to confront.
The limits imposed on a person by the drastic health condition or by a war tragedy are as vivid as are the details in the discussed artwork. Thus, the social value expressed by the painting is evident. Primarily, Wyeth emphasizes the place the disabled occupy in society. More often than not, the overwhelming feeling of isolation is a companion of people with limited opportunities. The importance of adjusting the rules of society to those with limited possibilities due to a health condition is essential for a compassionate and humane community. Aside from the fact that this piece of art is valuable from the artistic point of view, it is necessary to study it for many other reasons. As the world changes throughout the years, the human condition is altered as well.
The place a person occupies in the world may become unclear, confusing, and barely justified. What if the disabled and the ones who lost their loved ones in the world are not the only types of people that will eventually suffer from a feeling of isolation? Even though the painting depicts Christina Olson, who suffered from a misunderstood condition with muscle degeneration, it is also a symbol of all those who are in need of compassion, support, direction, and empowerment. Since Wyeth admitted he would have painted it differently if he had had the chance, it is a captivating idea to perceive this piece of art as a message that has been developing over the years.
It is crucial for us to study this artwork, as it is indicative of the place of a human being in relation to others, the society, and the world community. This artwork addresses many important issues of the day, including social isolation, the disabled, and the feeling of being lost and perplexed by the disappointing and hurtful reality. It shows us the importance of determining the place of a human being in the patchwork of the global community, as well as in social relations on the local scale.