Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946)
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Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946)

Ice Storm, Maine

Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946)
Ice Storm, Maine
signed 'J. Wyeth' (lower left)
oil on canvas
40 x 60 in. (101.6 x 152.4 cm.)
Painted in 1998.
James Graham & Sons, New York.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 1998.
W. Adelson, et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: Supplement, vol. V, New York, 2015, pp. 78-79, no. 20, illustrated.
Rockland, Maine, Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center, Gulls, Ravens, and a Vulture: The Ornithological Paintings of James Wyeth, June-October 2006, pp. 64-66, 101, no. 56, illustrated.
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Lot Essay

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

Finding inspiration in familiar landscapes and subjects that surround his everyday life, Jamie Wyeth's best works, such as Ice Storm, Maine, elevate the seemingly mundane to a highly regarded and thought provoking subject. Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and coastal Maine were the homes to generations of Wyeths, including N.C. and Andrew, the artist’s grandfather and father respectively. A vast assortment of animals from these locations has been featured in Jamie Wyeth's work, including pigs, ravens, cows, sheep, seagulls and dogs. Ice Storm, Maine is a striking example of the artist revealing the natural inhabitants and winter landscape of his native Maine from an unusual vantage point.

Many of Wyeth’s works of animals showcase the creature as the primary subject, and thus present as portraits. Christopher Crosman writes of Wyeth's animal portraits, "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 archetypal memories anterior to culture...Wyeth paints as if he were observing from the bird's unique perspective and identity, a feat that would surely please his grandfather." (Wondrous Strange: The Wyeth Tradition, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 129)

Wyeth himself once noted, “I spend as much time with an animal or an object as I do with a person when I'm doing their portrait.” (Jamie Wyeth: Islands, 1993, p. 16) The primary subject of Ice Storm, Maine is a pair of ravens, which are imposingly enlarged in the foreground of the picture plane as they appear to walk towards the viewer. The archetypal symbolism of ravens as ominous or foreboding is heightened by the dramatic, close vantage point and their commanding stance against the frozen landscape. The background is imbued with a surreal, abstract quality, comprised of jagged shapes of snow-covered pine trees at the island’s edge, while beyond the ravens, the dark blue sea is dotted with vividly contrasting spots of ice. The black ravens stand in sharp contrast to the white snow that has blanketed the ground and trees surrounding them.

While Jamie Wyeth's technique is distinct from his renowned artistic ancestors, their influence is undeniable. The striking palette and narrative quality of Jamie's work is reminiscent of his grandfather N.C.’s dynamic illustrations, while the haunting realism echoes his father, Andrew’s work. Wyeth once said in an interview on his own painting, “The terrible danger with realism is simply painting to make things look real. That's not what painting is about...My passion is to go as deep within the visual structure of an object or person as one possibly can. It just so happens in the final work I don't abstract it.” (J. Wyeth as quoted in C. Crosman, Jamie Wyeth: Islands, exhibition catalogue, Rockland, Maine, 1993, p. 5) In Ice Storm, Maine, Wyeth creates a scene where the air is thick with a sense of brooding, mystery and isolation. 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.

A study for the present work is in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

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