Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth 1948 - Museum of Modern Art, New York.
I love this painting and always found it haunted me in a beautiful way. When I first saw it, I thought the painting was simply a romantic portrayal of a young girl/woman in a field in the summer. When I found out during an art history class who the girl is in the painting, and what she suffered from - it became a desperate painting about struggle, loss, pain.
The subject in the painting is Christina Olson, a neighbour of Andrew Wyeth. She was crippled, completely unable to walk (possibly from polio - though she was undiagnosed). Wyeth painted this painting after seeing her agonizingly crawling across her field. His wife Betsy modeled for the painting to portray Christina, and he modified Betsy's body to the more contorted, skeletal form of Christina. Thinking of what an incredible struggle that must have been for Christina Olson on a daily basis, poor, unable to walk, living on a remote farm, changed my original reaction to this painting dramatically.
When you know the back story and look closely at the painting, you can see her emaciated arms and twisted figure. Seeing the distance Wyeth has placed her on the canvas, from her home, on an inclined hill, is obviously meant to emphasize her situation. The barren landscape, the empty grey sky, the bleak houses - now I look at it and I can not believe that I had not recognized all the clues Wyeth has given us about the real meaning of this piece - and that I did not notice her arms and hands. But my understanding is that many people are also shocked to learn about the backstory of this painting, and also had not seen her the way she is actually painted.
Andrew Wyeth, (born July 12, 1917 and died January 16, 2009) is one of my favourite artists. His colour palettes, attention to detail and compositions are wonderful. He painted the people around him and the landscapes and buildings close to him. Anna and Karl Kuerner, (his neighbors in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania) and their farm were one of Wyeth's most important subjects for nearly 50 years, as was Christina Olson and the Olson farm. Now that I know more of is work, I see that poverty, discomfort, pain and emptiness are constant themes. Below are a few more of Andrew Wyeth's evocative paintings.
Edvard Munch - 12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944
Born in Ådalsbruk, United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway
"The Scream" by Norwegian Symbolist and influencer of German Expressionism Edvard Munch, is arguably one of the world's most famous paintings and Munch's most recognized work. Munch actually created four versions of "The Scream" - 2 oils and 2 pastels.
On 2 May 2012, Munch's 1895 pastel "The Scream" sold for US $119,922,500.
Yes, over 119 million dollars.
This is how Munch described what lay behind his extraordinary work "The Scream".
"I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature."
(Faerna, José María (1995). Munch. New York: Harry N. Abrams. p. 16.)
"The Scream" touched our psyches and infiltrated our culture as few other works of art have. Was Munch's other work as dark and emotional? Yes.
"I do not believe in the art which is not the compulsive result of Man's urge to open his heart."
(Eggum, Arne; Munch, Edvard (1984). Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies. New York: C.N. Potter. p.10)
"My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born."
(Prideaux, Sue (2005). Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream. New Haven: Yale University Press.)
Edvard Munch's work was highly personal - he lived a troubled life and his art reflects this.
Edvard Munch grew up in dire poverty and surrounded by illness. Munch's mother died of Tuberculosis when Munch was just 5, he was terribly ill throughout his childhood, and his beloved sister Sophie also died of Tuberculosis when she was 15 and Munch was only 13. He was raised by his father who was a strict Calvinist and suffered from mental illness. After leaving home, he lived a life of self-imposed exile, believing that to be solitary created great art. In 1908, suffering depression, seeing hallucinations and experiencing feelings of persecution, Munch was also dealing with alcoholism. It is here when Munch reached an emotional breaking point and was hospitalized for 8 months. He was never married and had no children.
When Munch died, his remaining works were not left to any of his family members but were bequeathed to the city of Oslo, which built the Munch Museum. - 1,100 paintings, 4,500 drawings, 18,000 prints and six sculptures. An extraordinary amount of work. An extraordinary legacy for Norway and for artists and art lovers world-wide.
Possibly more than any other artist, Munch expressed in visual form the inner life of modern man. His images of loss, loneliness, anxiety, dread and sexuality touched a chord in viewers that most artists desperately try to reach.
To learn more about this extraordinary artist, visit - https://www.edvardmunch.org/