Method Number Two: Christina’s World

Here’s another way to draw large crowds to a museum: Take a popular painting, like Andrew Wyeth‘s “Christina’s World,” and create an exhibit around it — even if you can’t get the actual painting! (In fact, the painting’s traveling days are over, given its fragile condition at MOMA.)

Of course you can only get away with this if you are the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. The Farnsworth actually owns the Olson House in nearby Cushing, Maine — that’s the house where Christina lived, with her brother, Alvaro. The house was named a National Historic Landmark on July 1 of this year.

This exhibition features approximately 50 watercolors and drawings depicting Alvaro and Christina Olson.  The works include interior and exterior views of the house and the surrounding land, as well as 12  preparatory drawings and drafts of the famed work. All the works, with the exception of a select group from the Farnsworth, are from the collection of the Marunuma Art Park in Asaka, Japan, and are  rarely  seen in the United States.

Christina suffered a crippling childhood disease but was too proud to use crutches or a wheelchair, instead using her arms to drag herself around. Wyeth was so moved when he first saw her moving around this way outside her home.

While you’re at the Farnsworth,

Four in Maine: Drawings   is an exceptional exhibit worth seeing. With drawings by Mary Barnes, Emily Brown, John Moore, and T. Allen Lawson, the show  demonstrates the wide variety of approaches to drawing present not just in Maine, but in contemporary art in America. Barnes employs a variety of materials, including ink, Mylar and sometimes collage elements in her mixed media drawings to create “different sounds in a composition,” which may even include marks upon both sides of the work. Brown, who lives in Philadelphia and summers in South Montville, Maine, draws and paints in and about the inland landscape she loves. She has recently combined some of her drawings and prints with small collected objects in a series of collages.

Moore, formerly a professor of art at the University of Pennsylvania and a resident of Belfast, Maine, has  developed a body of large-scale charcoal drawings of old factories and other evidence of urban decay. More traditional in subject matter and materials, they are nonetheless evocative works that depend for their impact on manipulation of texture, light and mood, enhanced by their large size.

Lawson,  a Wyoming native who lives in Rockport, is primarily a landscape painter and draftsman whose carefully observed and elegantly rendered compositions  refer  to the natural world around him. Nonetheless, the spare use of line and shading, in combination with a meticulous technique, charge these otherwise realistic works with an abstract power.

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4 Responses to Method Number Two: Christina’s World

  1. Thomas Kelly says:

    That painting always seemed too surreal. As a painter it really encourages you to take some chances.

  2. Farnsworth visitor says:

    I don’t think the Farnsworth is trying to get away with anything. Rather, in this exhibit, the Museum shows work rarely available for viewing in this country that spans thirty years. Incidentally, Wyeth painted in the Olson House for almost a decade prior to painting Christina’s World, and the exhibit documents a disciplined approach to his relationship to the house and to the people who lived there. It’s unfortunate that one painting, Christina’s World, of an artist’s oeuvre has been so popularized, that the reviewer can’t seem to appreciate the context in which the painting evolved.

  3. Thank you for this post. I didn’t know the story about this painting, which I’ve loved for years. Best wishes, Ellen

  4. patt says:

    Some years ago, I visited the Wm.Nelson Gallery of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. The exhibit of Andrew Wyeth’s work was mounted in a major show which included his work of other models, other sites of the homestead and, I believe I remember, some of his drawings. This show allowed us to realize the breadth of his work as well as his incredible talent. Yes, his one work is well known but others are beautiful too. The painting of the fragile thin curtains drifting with the wind at an open window is one of my favorites.

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