28 September 2014

Looking out, looking in

Andrew Wyeth, Frostbitten, 1962.
watercolor on paper. 16 x 23 ½ in.

Of the more than 370 entries I have written here, the second-most popular has been Rooms with a View which offered small 19th-century Scandinavian paintings of mostly bare rooms with windows.  The National Gallery in Washington, DC is presenting until the end of November another window exhibition, this of paintings by Andrew Wyeth.  I have followed Wyeth since I first discovered him  Christina's World in the late 50s, and have made many pilgrimages to Brandywine, PA to his countryside (where I saw a pair of foxes courting in the snow).

One painting in this exhibition might at first glance be at home in the Scandinavian exhibition:

Andrew Wyeth, Big Room, 1988,
watercolor on paper. 22 ½ x 30 in.

but it makes clear the differences.  Where the little paintings showed the love of detail, this begins to melt away detail, to merge outside with inside, tree branches with man-made bricks.  Wyeth has always seemed to me to paint death.  I see each of his paintings not as lament or scare but as a statement of infinite calm: death is apples on a windowsill, sunlight in an empty room, a wind from the sea.  That wind is the poster picture for this exhibition.

Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea, 1947.
tempera on hardboard 18 ½ x 27 ½ 

The sea is invisible. So much in Wyeth's paintings is invisible, like the lovers looking out the blue window, or "Her," or the fog, or the spring, or the window itself in paintings below. Like Piero della Francesca he paints the silence between the notes of music. But visible here in the lace of these wind-torn curtains are returning swallows, swallows coming toward the viewer whose face is about to be touched by the curtains, about to be touched by the incoming fog.

Andrew Wyeth, Rod and Reel, 1975.
watercolor on paper 21 ½ x 29 ½ in.

Andrew Wyeth, Love in the Afternoon, 1992.
tempera on panel

Andrew Wyeth, Her Room, 1963.
tempera on panel

Andrew Wyeth, Blue Door, 1952.
watercolor on paper 29 x 21 in.

Andrew Wyeth, Incoming Fog, 1952.
watercolor on paper 29 x 21 in.

Andrew Wyeth, Drying Room, 1973.
watercolor on paper 19 x 30 in.

Andrew Wyeth, The Reefer Study, 1948
watercolor on paper 22 x 30 in.

Andrew Wyeth, Spring Fed, 1967.
tempera on masonite 27 ½ x 39 ½ in.

Andrew Wyeth, North Light, 1984.
watercolor on paper 21 x 29 ¼ in.

Andrew Wyeth, Bird in the House, 1979.
watercolor on paper 29 ½ x 21 ½ in.

Pictures from Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In.
Nancy K. Anderson & Charles Brock. National Gallery of Art, 2014.

1 comment:

  1. He is a master of the oblique, the echo of light. Emily Dickinson's "There's a certain Slant of light/ Winter afternoons/ that oppresses/ Like the Heft/Of Cathedral tunes" what an extraordinary clan the Wyeths comprise!


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