N. C. Wyeth

In 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.

Breakup (1994)

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.

Omen (1997)

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.

Snow Hill (1989)

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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