Brain Food #517

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Thoughts of the day

Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth is one of the most iconic paintings of the 20th Century. The image of a woman in a pink dress, spread across a grassy field, gazing nostalgically towards a house, that we presume to be her own. Has she just fallen down? Is she getting up?

Christina was a real person, Anna Christina Olson, who lived near Wyeth’s vacation home. Wyeth painted Olson sprawled on the grass because she had some form of neurological condition which made her handicapped from the waist down, and forced her to move around by crawling.

And suddenly, with some context, the painting takes on a whole new meaning. Behind Christina, there is fragility and pain, but not a lack of hope, and that is exactly what the painter celebrates:

“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 do.”

In terms of the composition itself, the angles the buildings are placed in, the direction of Christina’s gaze, all work because of the exact position they are found in. Christina’s World is a form of homecoming, but in some ways, Christina is already home.


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