How many windows have you looked through in your lifetime? The new Andrew Wyeth exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Looking Out, Looking In (click to view below), offers you some 60 views through the artist’s eyes. In honor of its debut, I’m updating a 2012 art appreciation quiz on Christina’s World. Although it is not in the show, another work associated with Christina, Wind from the Sea, is part of the display. But I don’t want to reveal anymore before you take your “test.”
So let’s start…..
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.”
Click below to see the painting.
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 65 years ago, soon after Wyeth completed it. Do you know by
A. Delaware Museum of Art B. Metropolitan Museum of Art C. Private Collection D. Museum of Modern Art
When Christina died, Wyeth almost immediately began creating a series of portraits of another subject. CAN YOU
GUESS THE NAME OF THIS NEW MODEL?
A. Helga B. Sigrid C. Siri D. It’s a trick question; Wyeth referred to her simply as “the girl.”
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 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, donated to the National Gallery in 2009 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 adjacent to the home.
Click below to view the painting:
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.
CAN YOU GUESS THE NAME OF WYETH’S NEW SUBJECT AFTER CHRISTINA?
C. Siri Erickson. She was the daughter of Finnish emigrant George Erickson, a farmer who lived in the Cushing area. According to Wyeth, he had done a sketch of her the autumn before Christina’s death. Then, as the artist passed the Erickson home on his way to Christina’s burial in January, he “realized that that very moment was the end of the Olsons“ Soon after, Siri began to pose for him, who “was never a figure to be painted, but more a burst of life.”
Identify the AMERICAN WRITER who had a special bond with Wind from the Sea?
A. John Steinbeck B. William Carlos Williams C. Ernest Hemingway D. Robert Frost
Andrew Wyeth’s older brother Nathaniel was an award-winning inventor. What PRODUCT DID HE INVENT?
A. Plastic soda bottle B. Mobile phone C. Remote control D. Aluminum Foil
Wyeth’s two sisters, Henriette and Carolyn were accomplished artists. But it was Henriette who received the commission for the portrait of which FIRST LADY?
A. Rosslyn Carter B. Jacqueline Kennedy C. Lady Bird Johnson D. Pat Nixon
AND THE ANSWERS ARE:
Who is the AMERICAN WRITER?
D. Robert Frost (1874-1963). The New England poet was a visitor to the home of Charles H. Morgan, who had purchased Wind from the Sea in 1952. Morgan, director of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, hung it over his living room fireplace. Frost was so drawn to the work, that Morgan once loaned it to him while he and his wife were away on an extended trip.
What PRODUCT DID NATHANIEL WYETH INVENT?
A. The plastic soda bottle which was the result of Nathaniel’s experiments at Dupont. Although artistic talent has been dominant in the Wyeth family for multiple generations, Nathaniel (1911-1990), educated as a mechanical engineer, followed a different path.
Which FIRST LADY sat for Henriette Wyeth?
D. Pat Nixon. Henriette (1907-1997), who was also married to painter Peter Hurd, produced the official depiction of the then former First Lady in 1978.
How did you do? 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. You might also try the catalog of Looking Out, Looking In.
Note: Andrew Wyeth’s quotes about Christina’s World cited above are from Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth; his account of Siri Erickson is from Andrew Wyeth: Autobiography. 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.