ANDREW WYETH (1917-2009)
ANDREW WYETH (1917-2009)
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ANDREW WYETH (1917-2009)

Hay Day

ANDREW WYETH (1917-2009)
Hay Day
signed with initials 'A.W' (lower left)
tempera on panel
20 3/4 x 12 in. (52.7 x 30.5 cm.)
Painted in 1980.
The artist.
Private collection, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, acquired from the above, circa 1980.
By descent to the present owner.
Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art, on loan, 1983.
Tokyo, Japan, Seibu Pisa Ltd., Andrew Wyeth, 1988, no. 2, illustrated in color.

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Lot Essay

For over half a century, Andrew Wyeth's art has proven to be the most enduring of any American realist and has brought the artist acclaim at home and abroad. His work has been appreciated for its seeming simplicity and its sheer beauty, for its celebration of rural American life, and for the haunting, elegiac silence that often pervades his best works, such as Hay Day. “Although celebrated as a great American realist,” Susan C. Larsen writes, “Andrew Wyeth generally offered mystery rather than certainty in his art. The power of the unseen at work in nature and in human life gives his art its power and unique presence." (Wondrous Strange, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1998, p. 18) Indeed, Wyeth’s stunning tempera Hay Day characteristically balances on this captivating interface of everyday familiarity and ethereal ambiguity.

The present work depicts a barn alongside Friendship Road in Waldoboro, Maine. Whether in Pennsylvania or Maine, rural imagery featuring barns and hay was a common theme throughout Wyeth’s storied career, with related works including Big Top (1981) and Haymow (1988), both in The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection. In the present work, the traditional barn subject is elevated through Wyeth's modern focus on compositional design. Depicting a view looking outward from within the barn, the painting cleverly features his signature career-long motif of openings or windows, seen in such iconic works as Wind from the Sea (1947, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). Using this device to create a picture within a picture, Hay Day frames a meticulously executed wagon against a glowing, almost otherworldly, backdrop.

Dividing his time between Maine and Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Wyeth painted the state of Maine for nearly ninety years and is one of the most celebrated painters associated with the state. In the 1920s Andrew’s father, N.C. Wyeth, purchased a home in Port Clyde, Maine and not long after, Andrew spent every summer there and became captivated by the place. As an adult, the home he shared with wife Betsy in Cushing, Maine provided Wyeth with ample inspiration, and his interpretations of the inhabitants of the area are some of the most indelible images in 20th century American art, including most notably Christina’s World (1948, Museum of Modern Art, New York). Wyeth noted of Maine, "There's something very basic about the country there. It has an austere quality—very exciting—the quietness, the freedom." (W.M. Corn, The Art of Andrew Wyeth, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1973, p. 74)

Wyeth once explained, “I think one’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes. I see no reason for painting but that. If I have anything to offer, it is my emotional contact with the place where I live and the people I do.” (as quoted in Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, exhibition catalogue, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 2017, p. 162) Hay Day captures this deep, personal connection which Wyeth imbues within his best work, while also employing modern techniques of design and application. The painting is at once both easy to understand, and also ceaselessly fascinating and attention holding, as Wyeth provokes the viewer to contemplate the mysteries to be found within his vision of modern American life.

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