Opening a Window on Andrew Wyeth

McClatchy Washington BureauMay 2, 2014 

— The National Gallery of Art unveils a show of artwork from one of America's best known painters, Andrew Wyeth, on May 4th that has a decidedly new twist. The exhibit focuses on Wyeth’s fascination with windows – an apparently unnoticed feature of his work that came to light when a curator began wondering about a Wyeth acquisition that came to the gallery in 2009.

The evocative painting of a window with gently billowing curtains and a landscape through the window, “Wind from the Sea,” made curator Nancy K. Anderson start looking for more. “Are we making this up?” she asked, only to have Wyeth family members confirm his interest in windows.

“He explored windows utilizing multiple visual devices, such as vantage points (far, near, inside, outside, ground level, upstairs), curtains (still and flowing), reflections, landscapes seen through windows, and even windows seen through windows,” said the catalog for the exhibition.

Although he is considered a realist painter, he was drawn, said Anderson, to the reflective nature of glass which at the same time is transparent.

The exhibit, Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In includes 60 tempera paintings, watercolors, and drawings with the centerpiece, “Wind from the Sea,” painted in 1947. It was painted at the Olson House in Maine that appears in his most famous work, “Christina’s World.” (That painting is at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and is not part of the exhibit.)

Another important work in the exhibit is “Weatherside,” a view of the outside of the Olson House that was loaned by the North Carolina Museum of Art.

There are several paintings from the countryside in Chadds Ford, Pa. where Wyeth lived and where he painted a significant body of his work. Among the works from that region is “North Light,” loaned by the Brandywine River Museum of Art, a converted mill which features artwork of Wyeth, his father and his son, all renowned artists. Wyeth died in 2009.

"In these spare, elegant, and abstract window paintings and works on paper, Wyeth tackled the complexities presented by the subject throughout his career. We hope that this exploration both on the walls and in the catalog will encourage a much closer look at Wyeth's work and contribute to the reassessment of his achievement that is well underway," said Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art at the press preview.

The show runs exclusively at the National Gallery of Art through Nov. 30.

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