I was astonished to learn “Christina’s World” was relegated to storage at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

We Mainers are invested in that painting, and I suspect others also were stunned to read Bob Keyes’ piece in the Maine Sunday Telegram reporting that the Andrew Wyeth painting has been ferreted away, at least temporarily.

A print of Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” in July 2018 hangs in the Olson house in Cushing, which is open to the public. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

For those unfamiliar with it, the artwork features Anna Christina Olson, who was thought at the time to have polio, lying in a field in Cushing, ostensibly crawling toward her house. Olson and her brother, Alvaro, were good friends of Wyeth, whose vacation home was nearby. Wyeth spent a lot of time in the house, painting both the Olsons themselves, and the rooms within.

“Christina’s World” is a haunting and beautiful painting, as are many of those Wyeth painted in the 1940s.

I have made several treks to The Olson House, now a museum of sorts, over recent summers, strolling through the stark rooms, climbing stairs, peering out windows to the coastal landscape that is much as it was when Wyeth was there.

He painted the white rooms, wood floors, geraniums in windows, the old cook stove and rocking chair in the kitchen. The house seems so familiar to those we Mainers grew up in. We relate to it and the characters who were the Olsons.

During my visits, I’ve walked down the path leading to Wyeth and the Olsons’ graves, looked back up the hill and imagined Christina there, leaning toward home.

Wyeth, who died in 2009 at 91, and his son, Jamie, have graced us with their works over decades. We feel a sense of ownership and protective of these gifts that reflect where we live and who we are.

The kitchen in the Olson house in Cushing, in July 2018, also provided subjects for Andrew Wyeth who painted the house’s white rooms, wood floors, geraniums in the windows, the old cook stove and the rocking chair in the kitchen. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

It seems incomprehensible that the New York museum removed “Christina’s World,” apparently in part because patrons often crowded around it, taking the focus off other works the museum wanted to highlight. What a strange rationale, one I have a hard time wrapping my head around.

If the Museum of Modern Art has such a low view of the painting, I’ve got a solution.

I’ll bet the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland would take it in a heartbeat. It would complement the other extraordinary Wyeth family paintings revered by Mainers and other art enthusiasts who flock there from all over the world.

Better yet, give it to the Colby College Museum of Art here in Waterville.

It would be a perfect addition to the museum, which I’m sure would welcome it with open arms. And if crowds flock to see it, the more the merrier.

From my perspective, Maine is where it belongs, anyway.

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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