Before I knew the story behind Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World painting, I always connected it to pain–the image of that women reaching up to the house, her body broken, the house appearing to disappear deeper into the landscape the longer I looked.
The pain I picked up on was real, but the real story is one of beautiful endurance and strength over physical suffering. The woman in the painting is Wyeth’s dear friend and neighbour Anna Christina Olson, who suffered from degenerative muscle disorder that prevented her from walking. Andrew would see her outside his window, dragging her limp body around the fields, picking blueberries, enjoying the light. She refused to be imprisoned by her condition, and enjoyed life immensely, her spirit untouched by the limitations of her body.
An imagined interview with Andrew Wyeth in his own words…
“The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless… limited physically but by no means spiritually.” Andrew Wyeth
What is art to you?
“Art to me, is seeing. I think you have got to use your eyes, as well as your emotion, and one without the other just doesn’t work. That’s my art.”
“One’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes.”Andrew Wyeth
Where do you work?
“I don’t really have studios. I wander around people’s attics, out in fields, in cellars, anyplace I find that invites me.”
“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.”
“I’m a secretive bastard. I would never let anybody watch me painting… it would be like somebody watching you have sex – painting is that personal to me.” Andrew Wyeth
What inspires you?
“I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.”
“I surrendered to a world of my imagination, re-enacting all those wonderful tales my father would read aloud to me. I became a very active reader, especially history and Shakespeare.” Andrew Wyeth
“I love to study the many things that grow below the corn stalks and bring them back to the studio to study the color. If one could only catch that true color of nature – the very thought of it drives me mad.”Andrew Wyeth
What reaction do you hope your work will incite?
“To have all your life’s work and to have them along the wall, it’s like walking in with no clothes on. It’s terrible.”
“I get letters from people about my work. The thing that pleases me most is that my work touches their feelings. In fact, they don’t talk about the paintings. They end up telling me the story of their life or how their father died.” Andrew Wyeth
What do you seek through your work?
“My aim is to escape from the medium with which I work; to leave no residue of technical mannerisms to stand between my expression and the observer. To seek freedom through significant form and design rather than through the diversion of so-called free and accidental brush handling.”
“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it… I always want to see the third dimension of something… I want to come alive with the object.”
“I can’t work completely out of my imagination. I must put my foot in a bit of truth; and then I can fly free.” Andrew Wyeth