“In these spare, elegant, and abstract window paintings and works on paper, Wyeth tackled the complexities presented by the subject throughout his career. We hope that this exploration both on the walls and in the catalogue will encourage a much closer look at Wyeth’s work and contribute to the reassessment of his achievement that is well underway,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Deceptively realistic, Wyeth’s window paintings and works on paper are skillfully manipulated constructions. The exhibition will be organized into thematic sections that group related preliminary drawings and watercolors with final tempera paintings, offering the clearest understanding of Wyeth’s creative process.
Over the course of many decades, Wyeth studied neighboring buildings and his own studios in both Chadds Ford, Pa., and in Cushing, Maine, as subjects for his investigation of windows. He explored windows utilizing multiple visual devices, such as vantage points (far, near, inside, outside, ground level, upstairs), curtains (still and flowing), reflections, landscapes seen through windows, and even windows seen through windows.
Wyeth was working in the Olson House in Maine that appears in his renowned painting, Christina’s World (1948), when an ocean breeze lifted curtains near an open window. He made a quick sketch and within a few weeks Wind from the Sea was complete. Wyeth described the moment: “That summer in 1947 I was in one of the attic rooms feeling the dryness of everything and it was so hot I pried open a window. A west wind filled the dusty, frayed lace curtains and the delicate crocheted birds began to flutter and fly. . . . My whole idea is to keep myself open for the elusive something [that might catch me] off balance when [I] least expect it. I drew a very quick sketch and had to wait for weeks for another west wind for more studies.”
In addition to never-before-seen works, the exhibition will include several familiar ones that address the subject of windows. From Spring Fed (1967), linked to the tragic death of his father, N. C. Wyeth, and the interior view in Rod and Reel (1975), to the austere and mathematically precise Off at Sea (1972) and the very spare Evening at Kuerners (1970), these paintings and works on paper represent a significant but little explored component of Wyeth’s achievement.
Born in Chadds Ford, Pa., Andrew Wyeth was 15 when he began training as an artist in the studio of his famous father, N.C. Wyeth. Five years later, his first one-man exhibition at Macbeth Gallery in New York sold out in two days. During a career that spanned more than seven decades, Wyeth produced a large and compelling body of work that included one of the most famous paintings in 20th-century American art—Christina’s World (Museum of Modern Art, New York).
The gallery’s collection includes 19 paintings and works on paper by Andrew Wyeth.
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