• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2058

    Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    4 December 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 121

    Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946)

    Night Pigs

    Price Realised  


    Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946)
    Night Pigs
    signed 'J Wyeth' (lower right)
    oil on board
    30 x 30 in. (76.2 x 76.2 cm.)
    Painted in 1979.

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    Combining the narrative qualities of his grandfather, N.C. Wyeth, with the haunting realism of his father, Andrew, Jamie Wyeth has defined a visual language of his own that makes him one of the most recognized and engaging contemporary artists working in the realist tradition. "It is a type of realism, invented to meet the demands of illustration and mechanical reproduction, that N.C. largely perfected: dramatic intensity through theatrical lighting effects; a bold, although relatively limited palette of saturated color; strong, firm outline; close-up perspective placing the viewer in the action of the depicted scene; elimination of all superfluous detail to concentrate attention on the critical, telling moment." (C. Crosman in Wondrous Strange: The Wyeth Tradition, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 127)

    Night Pigs is both humorous and haunting in its explicit and hidden narrative, qualities evocative of Wyeth's work throughout his career. The starkly lit subjects create an unspoken conflict in the scene, with their shadows eerily looming over the composition, adding a sense of movement and tension. At the same time, the aloof expressions and naturally amusing countenance of the pigs seems to poke fun at the absurdity of the otherwise simple pastoral scene. Finding inspiration in the familiar subjects that surround his everyday life, Wyeth is able to elevate the seemingly mundane to a highly regarded and thought provoking subject. "His works represent a wonderful extension of the Romantic tradition into the twentieth century. His landscape subjects, his painterly light-filled style, and his emotional involvement with nature, are all indications of his Romantic proclivity. But the artist has added to this nineteenth-century tradition an artistic interpretation, solidly grounded in his own technocratic times." (P. Beecher, in Three Generations of Wyeths, Elmira, New York, 1986, p. 23)

    Night Pigs tells of an intensely felt and closely observed world. Wyeth reveals this intensity through the vigor and varied use of his brushstroke, the saturation of light and the rejection of easily decorative effects. Without being sentimental, Wyeth is both a Naturalist and Romantic who lends a clarity and authenticity to the everyday objects, people and places that surround his life. He lends a subtle monumentality and thoughtfulness to his subjects and exists as a hidden observer so that they exist in their own authentic narrative. The two pigs, Den Den and Baby Jane, belonged to Wyeth on his farm, Point Lookout, in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and have been frequent subjects of his paintings. Den Den originally belonged to Wyeth's neighbor, Mattie Ball, and had been a companion to Wyeth since childhood, while Baby Jane was given to Wyeth as an adult by New York socialite and icon, "Baby Jane" Holzer.

    Eager to explore what others might term as minutia, the lobster shell sun-bleached on a rocky shore, the sunlight falling on a decaying log on the forest floor or the darkened corner of a country barn, Wyeth successfully reveals the subjects of his native Maine and Pennsylvania from unusual vantage points that ultimately take on a visual narrative unique to artist's oeuvre. Seagulls, crows, pigs, and dogs become the protagonists in Wyeth's world, enveloping the deceptively picturesque quietude of a lighthouse or rural landscape with a heightened sense of realism. "Another important body of paintings by Wyeth centers on birds and other animals, both domestic and wild. While these paintings of birds and animals are remarkably accurate, there is something well beyond rational, scientific observation--the primal gestures, the unsettling eyes, perhaps stirring in the viewer the archetypal memories anterior to culture. Conceptually and spiritually, if not in a strict narrative sense, these portraits of birds and other animals belong to the world of N.C., to the passion and terribilita of his finest illustrations."(Wondrous Strange: The Wyeth Tradition, p. 129)

    This work is included in the database of the artist's work being compiled by the Wyeth Center at the William A. Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine.


    Private collection, Modesto, California, 1979.
    Island Weiss Gallery, New York.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2005.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property of a Private Southern Collection


    J. Wyeth and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Jamie Wyeth, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1980, p. 54, illustrated.
    "Painting's Favorite Son," Coe Kerr Gallery, November 1980, n.p., illustrated.
    M.S. Doherty, "Jamie Wyeth's Studio Retreat," American Artist, February 1981, pp. 56-61, illustrated.
    Anchorage Fine Arts Museum, Jamie Wyeth in Alaska, exhibition catalogue, Anchorage, Alaska, 1983, n.p., no. 22.
    Portland Museum of Art, Jamie Wyeth: An American View, exhibition catalogue, Portland, Maine, 1984, n.p., no. 22.
    G. Plaskin, "Jamie Wyeth's American Style," The Civilized Man, August 1984, pp. 42-50.
    Academy of the Arts of the USSR, An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1987, p. 184, no. 102, illustrated.


    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and elsewhere, Jamie Wyeth, September 19-December 14, 1980.
    Anchorage, Alaska, Anchorage Fine Arts Museum, and elsewhere, Jamie Wyeth in Alaska, March 13-March 24, 1983.
    Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art, and elsewhere, Jamie Wyeth: An American View, June 19-September 9, 1984.
    Leningrad, Russia, Academy of the Arts of the USSR, and elsewhere, An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art, March 11-April 12, 1987.