This week, I am starting a series of classes based on my book Through an Artist’s Eyes: Learning to Live Creatively at a lifelong learning center. I thought it would be fun to have a brief “pop” quiz on Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth, which we will be discussing during the first presentation Improving Your Appreciation of the Great Works of Western Art. It is multiple choice and the answers are at the bottom (don’t peek!), along with some great resources on Wyeth.
Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) is still considered his most famous painting. Wyeth, the son of one artist, N.C. Wyeth and the father of another, Jamie Wyeth, had his first art exhibition when he was only a teenager and soon became known as one of America’s leading artistic figures. Yet, Christina’s World, has always been special. According to Wyeth in an interview in the 1970s, he would receive “literally hundreds of letters a week from people saying that it’s a portrait of themselves.”
First of all would you like to know, WHO IS CHRISTINA?
A. A model the artist hired B. A family friend C. A creation of the artist’s imagination D. His wife
And WHERE is her world?
A. The South B. New England C. The Midwest D. No identifiable place
Christina’s World was purchased more than 60 years ago, soon after Wyeth completed it. Do you know by WHICH COLLECTION?
A. Delaware Museum of Art B. Metropolitan Museum of Art C. Private Collection D. Museum of Modern Art
AND THE ANSWERS ARE:
WHO IS CHRISTINA?
B. A family friend. Chistina Olson (1893-1968) was of major significance in Wyeth’s life, both personally and artistically. He met Christina and his future wife Betsy James on the same day, his 22nd birthday on July 12, 1939. Wyeth was introduced to Betsy first, who then took him to see Christina. “I don’t know what made me take him there,” Betsy remembered in an interview years later. For the next three decades, Wyeth would paint not only Christina but the Olson house as well where he often spent the summers. Wyeth once said that “Christina’s World is more than just her portrait. It really was her whole life and that is what she liked in it.”
Christina Olson was disabled and probably suffered from polio. Wyeth saw her one late afternoon from the third floor window, “pulling herself slowly back toward the house” after picking some vegetables. However, Christina posed for the arms and hands, while Betsy was the model for the rest of the body.
WHERE is her world?
B. New England. During his nearly 92 years, Wyeth divided his time between his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Maine. The Olson house is located in Cushing, Maine, near Hathorne’s Point overlooking the bay. It is owned by nearby Farnsworth Museum of Art in Rockland, Maine and open to the public except during the winter. After the death of Christina Olson, the house was initially bought by movie director Joseph E. Levine, and then by Apple Inc. CEO John Sculley and his wife Lee who gave it to the Farnsworth Museum in 1991.
Wind from the Sea, just recently donated to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., is another work by Wyeth inspired by the Olson house. He painted it in 1947 before Christina’s World, offering us a view of the legendary field.
And WHICH COLLECTION purchased Christina’s World?
D. The Museum of Modern Art. In my own experience, people are often surprised when they learn of the painting’s present location. Christina’s World was purchased by the New York museum in 1949, just as Jackson Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists were gaining popularity in art circles. Actually, Wyeth was an admirer of Pollock as well as non-objective painters such as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.
How did you do? I hope to offer additional art appreciation quizzes in the near future! If you would like to discover more about Andrew Wyeth, here are some excellent resources that often include in-depth interviews with the artist and reproductions of many of his works of art. They are all available on amazon.com (at incredible discounts) and you can most likely borrow most of them from your local library.
The Art of Andrew Wyeth by Wanda M. Corn, published for The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco by the New York Graphic Society, Ltd., Greenwich, CT in 1973; Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: A Conversation with Andrew Wyeth by Thomas Hoving, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston in 1978; Christina’s World: Paintings and Prestudies of Andrew Wyeth by Betsy Wyeth, published by Houghton Mifflin, 1982; Andrew Wyeth: Autobiography by Andrew Wyeth in cooperation with Thomas Hoving, published by Konecky & Konecky, Old Saybrook, CT in 1995.
Note: All of Andrew Wyeth’s quotes cited above are from Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth; the quote of Betsy James Wyeth can be found in The Art of Andrew Wyeth.
The above works are utilized solely for educational purposes.
And don’t forget a new way to develop your own inner creativity with Through an Artist’s Eyes: Learning to Live Creatively.