Some artworks remain in our consciousness for many, many years. Some have been with us from childhood, fuelling our imagination and nourishing our spirit.
In this series of Blog posts, I’d like to share with you, the paintings I grew up with and which nourished me. I often recall them with great fondness and admiration, and it’s a pleasure to be able to look back and describe what they meant to me. The first is ‘Christina’s World’ by Andrew Wyeth.
I never owned an actual print of ‘Christina’s World’ but my parents would often hire it from our Public Library so it was a regular and cherished feature on my bedroom wall. Even as a child, I remember thinking this painting had gravitas. It always struck me as being a very lonely scene, almost desolate, yet strangely there was also a sense of hope. Christina carried a strength and purposefulness – a strange combination of longing, determination and dignity which I found both compelling and oddly sorrowful at the same time.
The painting felt very intimate, as if I was intruding on a private moment, and I always wondered what she must have been feeling and thinking, and where she had come from. The exquisite detail of the grass, her hair, slightly dishevelled and caught by the wind, and the shadows in the folds of her dress all made her seem very real – there was an immediacy and presence, even though I would never see her face.
The landscape also played on my imagination. The distant farmhouse felt within reach, yet very far away. I pictured vast fields continuing for miles in all directions. The closeness I felt to Christina was somehow made all the more important when placed in such an expansive scene.
It was a long time before I knew the story behind the painting – the woman in the picture. Christina was Anna Christina Olson, Andrew Wyeth’s neighbour in Maine who suffered from a degenerative muscular disorder which prevented her from walking. Wyeth was inspired to create the painting when he observed her crawling across the fields. He wrote:
“The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless. If in some small way I have been able in paint to make the viewer sense that her world may be limited physically but by no means spiritually, then I have achieved what I set out to do.”
To this day, I still find ‘Christina’s World’ to be a most affecting and moving painting.