Andrew Wyeth (b. 1917)
Heavy Snow
signed 'Andrew Wyeth' (lower left)
drybrush and watercolor on paper
20 x 40 in. (50.8 x 101.6 cm.)
Executed in 1967.
Patrick J. Leonard, Dallas, Texas.
Zula H. McMillan, Dallas, Texas.
Sotheby's, New York, 25 May 1988, lot 260.
Private collection, Glenmore, Pennsylvania.
Taggart & Jorgensen, Washington, D.C.
Private collection.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Andrew Wyeth, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1970, pp. 124-25, no. 81, illustrated.
B.J. Wyeth, Wyeth at Kuerners, New York, 1976, p. 173, illustrated.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1976, no. 33, illustrated.
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Andrew Wyeth, July 17-September 6, 1970, no. 81.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, October 16, 1976-February 6, 1977.

Lot Essay

Heavy Snow is part of an important body of work depicting the Kuerner farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. "Some of my earliest watercolors were done there," Wyeth comments. "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." He continues, "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)

Heavy Snow is a complete narrative, capturing not only the distinct landscape of Kuerners Farm but also a telling portrait of its inhabitants. Looking at the collective body of works from this locale, Wyeth has most often chosen a vantage point that approaches the farm from a distance or looks through windows of the home out to the surrounding area, as if through a lens. Wyeth treats the house and landscape as portraiture, as integral components that are necessary to completely understand the depth of meaning that the farm collectively embodies. Discussing his approach to the subject, Wyeth explains "But actually the subject becomes unimportant to me. I finally get beyond it; for it means many more things to me than just one object. Sometimes, when I do a painting with people in it, I have ultimately eliminated them, much to the horror of those who pose for me, because I find really that it's unimportant that they're there. If I can get beyond the subject to the object, then it has a deeper meaning." (Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons , p. 19) In discussing his important painting Brown Swiss (1957, private collection) the artist states that the Kuerner property "is indeed a real portrait to me. It was like doing a person's face -- so complex! It was like a double portrait, because of the reflection in the pond. I am looking at it one way, but then I'm looking at it another. 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." (Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, p. 47)

In Heavy Snow, by approaching the central object from a distance, Wyeth appears to have given great consideration to how best to sensitively and completely capture such an integral and complex subject. 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 Wyeth has also deftly added many details including the finely delineated tree by the edge of the pond, the sharply accurate roof antenna, and the touches of color seen in the pink curtains of the windows highlighted by blue. Wyeth makes a point of saying "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." (Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, p. 18)

Whether in Maine or Pennsylvania, Wyeth continues to identify his works with a strong connection to place. "I feel freer in surroundings that I don't have to be conscious of. I'll say that I love the object, or I love the hill. But that hill sets me free. I could wander over countless hills. But this one hill becomes thousands of hills to me. In finding this one object, I find a world. I think a great painting is a painting that funnels itself in and then funnels out, spreads out. I enter in a very focused way and then I go through it and way beyond it. A painting has to come naturally, freely, organically in a sense, through the back door." (Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, p. 24)

This drybrush watercolor will be included in Betsy James Wyeth's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.

More from Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

View All
View All