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Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

Blackberry Picker

Details
Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)
Blackberry Picker
signed 'Andrew Wyeth' (lower right)
tempera on masonite
28¾ x 48 in. (73 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 1943.
Provenance
Private collection, Bennington, Vermont, 1943.
[With]Hirschl & Adler, New York.
Private collection, Middleburg, Virginia, acquired from the above, by 1966.
Private collection, Burlington, Vermont, by descent.
Christie's, New York, 26 May 1988, lot 351.
Private collection, acquired from the above.
Acquired by the present owner, 1994.
Literature
M. Riley, "Andrew Wyeth's New Maturity," Art Digest, November 1943, p. 9.
Smithsonian Institution, American Landscape: A Changing Frontier, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1966, n.p., illustrated.
"Wyeth's Life in Art," New York Post, February 14, 1967, n.p., illustrated.
Brandywine River Museum, Land of the Brandywine, exhibition catalogue, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 1992, n.p., illustrated.
B. Venn and A.D. Weinberg, Unknown Terrain: The Landscapes of Andrew Wyeth, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1998, p. 89, no. 71, illustrated.
A. Wyeth and B.J. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends, Seattle, Washington, 2001, n.p., illustrated.
A.C. Knutson, Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic, exhibition catalogue, Atlanta, Georgia, 2005, pp. 133, 210, no. 10, illustrated.
Exhibited
New York, Macbeth Gallery, Temperas and Watercolors by Andrew Wyeth, November 1-20, 1943, no. 13.
Washington, D.C., National Collection of Fine Arts, American Landscape: A Changing Frontier, April 28-June 19, 1966.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and elsewhere, Andrew Wyeth, October 5-November 27, 1966, no. 7.
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum, Land of the Brandywine, June 7-September 7, 1992.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Unknown Terrain: The Landscapes of Andrew Wyeth, May 28-August 30, 1998.
Atlanta, Georgia, The High Museum of Art, and elsewhere, Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic, November 12, 2005-February 26, 2006.

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Lot Essay

Whether in Maine or Pennsylvania, Andrew Wyeth identified 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. And one has to be careful of getting too wrapped up in the meticulousness of the technique..." (as quoted in Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1976, p. 24)

In preparation for his final works in tempera and finished dry brush paintings, Wyeth often completed several close studies of specific landscape elements and still lifes, ensuring exceptional detail and spatial relationships in the final compositions. "As a young artist, Wyeth had painted descriptive close-up views of blackberries, flowers, leaves, and rocks that invite comparison with the work of such American Pre-Raphaelite painters as John William Hill and Thomas Farrer." Wyeth's sophisticated and almost three-dimensional rendering of the blackberry bush seen in the present work is based on the artist's close direct study of the objects at hand as well as his fascination and appreciation of his European and American predecessors. Art historian Alexander Nemerov draws a further comparison of Wyeth's technique in the present painting to the work of Raphaelle Peale. "In Wyeth's work, a blackberry bush in the extreme foreground is rendered in exacting detail. Beyond it is a green landscape, with the figure of a man in a white shirt picking berries in the distance. In Peale's painting, a branch loaded with blackberries in a white porcelain bowl sits on a table against an indistinct background. In both works the blackberries occupy a space that is almost continuous with that of the viewer and the artist (one of Wyeth's brambles even seems to arc into the viewer's space), emphasizing the artist's close identification with the object and suggesting its physical presence. Both artists suggest the heaviness of the ripe berries and the prickly texture of the leaves, engaging our sense of touch and establishing an almost physical connection to the subject. (Wyeth described how he enjoyed eating each berry after painting it.)" (A.C. Knutson, "Andrew Wyeth's Language of Things," Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2005, pp. 55-56)

Blackberry Picker is a complete narrative, capturing not only the distinct landscape of Chadds Ford but also a telling portrait of the personality and livelihood of its inhabitants. The present work displays an eerie calmness and sense of silence and solitude, as if Wyeth has just encountered his subject in the field, bent over, withdrawn from the world for a fleeting moment. The small figure picking blackberries appears to work diligently, at ease in his natural surroundings, as if seamlessly integrated with the landscape in form, color and mood. The combination of light and color in Blackberry Picker immediately communicates the smell, texture and overall air of the Pennsylvania afternoon and the emotions associated with the people and land that Wyeth held in such high regard.

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

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