This work will be included in Betsy James Wyeth's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.
One of Andrew Wyeth's most frequent subjects throughout his lengthy career was a neighboring farm belonging to the Kuerner family in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. "Some of my earliest watercolors were done there," Wyeth fondly recalled of Kuerner's. "When I was about ten years old, I had an urge to paint it, curiously enough; it never became a conscious effort or something about which I said to myself, 'I must continue this work.' I've gone on for years and not painted there. Then, all of a sudden, I'll have a strong compulsion to go back." Explaining his fascination with the area throughout the seasons, Wyeth continued, "I didn't go to that farm because it was in any way bucolic. Actually I'm not terribly interested in farming. The abstract, almost military quality of that farm originally appealed to me and still does...To see the hills capped with snow in the wintertime or to look at the tawniness of the fields in the fall all made me want to paint it. But here again, I backed into it. I didn't think it was a picturesque place. It just excited me, purely abstractly and purely emotionally." (as quoted in Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1976, p. 40)
As in the best of his works at Kuerner's, Heavy Snow conveys a narrative, capturing not only the distinct landscape of the farm but also the spirit of its unseen inhabitants. Blanketed under the cover of snowfall, the home feels at once resilient against the elements yet also fully immersed in the natural environment. In fact, Wyeth almost treats the subject of the house and surrounding land as would a portraitist, looking on from afar yet capturing the necessary details that form a palpable sense of personality. Wyeth himself acknowledged this aspect of his landscapes, stating of his important Kuerner Farm work Brown Swiss (1957, Private Collection) that the painting "is indeed a real portrait to me. It was like doing a person's face--so complex!...If you look closely at Brown Swiss, you'll see many, many very fine details...All these things are closely related to the true sense of portraiture." (as quoted in Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, p. 47)
In Heavy Snow, Wyeth sensitively captures his complex subject through his renowned skillful handling of the watercolor medium. Exploiting the white of the paper and applying watercolor with an economy of wash, Wyeth subtly indicates the surrounding winter landscape, creating an almost abstract composition. Balancing this openness, he deftly delineates the fine tree by the edge of the pond, the sharply accurate roof antenna and the touches of colorful curtains seen through the windows. As embodied by the nuanced balance seen in Heavy Snow, Wyeth once said, "Why not have the abstraction and the real, too? Combine the two, bring in the new with the traditional and you can't beat it. I believe, however, that I don't want to let the one take over the other. I try for an equal balance...I want the object to be there in my paintings, perhaps in all of its smallest detail, not as a tour de force, but naturally, in such a way that I have backed into it." (A. Wyeth, as quoted in Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, p. 18)