Wyeth Autobiography, Vol. 1
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Works by Andrew Wyeth: Breakup, Omen, Snow Hill
every artist, there is a time of flux; every
artist will change or evolve their techniques
over time. With Andrew Wyeth, what was subtle
in his paintings in the past has come rushing
to the forefront in an urgent and inescapable
manner. In his older works, the primal urges
and striking contrasts were there, yet a little
less evident. However, in his newer works, namely
Snow Hill (1989), Breakup
(1994) and Omen (1997), the
emotions and fierce needs are conspicuous.
This particular work requires no search for
poignant elements. The blackened, disembodied
hands reaching out of the ice present a disturbing,
yet inspiring image. It fills the viewer with
a feeling of insecurity, a certain anxiety over
the person’s identity and the precarious
circumstances. It has been said that the hands
depicted are those of the artist himself. If
that is the case, what exactly is Andrew Wyeth,
and ‘Breakup’ trying to convey?
By studying the situation in the painting, one
would literally assume that Wyeth feels trapped
and is trying to claw himself out of his prison.
The contrast of light and dark is meaningful.
The white snow against the dark hands gives
the piece a raw feeling. The fact that the hands
are so black and seemingly frost-bitten suggests
that this person has been under the ice for
a significant amount of time and is now finally
able to climb to freedom.
In ‘Omen’, we observe a nude woman
running wildly over a barren landscape as a
comet whips through the sky. There is once again
Wyeth’s signature usage of light and dark
contrast. The particular urgency that exists
in this piece impels you to think that the comet
represents an omen, causing the person to run
back to her home in order to tell or warn others
about it. For Andrew Wyeth, this sense of something
going on behind the scenes is not new. He is
renowned for creating a remarkable sense of
eeriness in his work that leaves a lasting impression.
In this piece, we see a culmination of Andrew
Wyeth’s work. The individuals in the painting
are depictions of his former models (Helga Testorf,
Karl and Anna Kuerner, Allan Lynch, Bill Loper
and Adam Johnson) dancing around a maypole.
Wyeth claims that they are rejoicing in anticipation
of his death because of the mental and emotional
strain he inflicted on them while they were
his subjects. Indirectly, ‘Snow Hill’
is a form of a self-portrait - not only does
it display his former models who meant a great
deal to him, but it also portrays the Kuerner
farm, a location that greatly inspired him,
and a set of railroad tracks that represent
his father’s death (N.C Wyeth was killed
by a train in 1945).
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