The Farnsworth Museum of Art in Rockland is exhibiting a show giving rare background into to one of American art’s most iconic paintings. The exhibition “Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World and the Olson House” runs through October 30 and celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the Farnsworth’s acquisition of the Olson House.
The exhibition features approximately fifty watercolors and drawings depicting Alvaro and Christina Olson and the Cushing, Maine house in which they lived. The focus is on Alvaro’s and Christina’s lives at what has become known as the Olson House, seen through the eyes of Andrew Wyeth. The works not only include interior and exterior views of the house and the surrounding land, memorialized in Wyeth’s iconic painting Christina’s World, but also twelve preparatory drawings and drafts of the famed work. Almost all the works are from the collection of the Marunuma Art Park in Asaka, Japan, and have rarely been seen in the United States.
The exhibition explores the questions of how Christina’s World has become an icon of American art and culture. A related question has to do with the popularity of the Olson House, which since it was first made accessible to the public briefly in 1969 and 1970, has become something of a pilgrimage site for fans of Wyeth’s work. Despite its relatively isolated location and seasonal schedule, it continues to draw thousands of visitors a year from around the world, many of whom return again and again.
On July 1, 2011, the Olson House was named a National Historic Landmark. National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction, including 41 in the state of Maine, among them the Winslow Homer Studio, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland.
Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World and the Olson House is organized by Farnsworth Chief Curator Michael K. Komanecky with a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Farnsworth Art Museum. For more information please visit the Farnsworth’s website at farnsworthmuseum.org
Listen to the 9/17 Cafe des Artistes radio program (5 min.) and interview with Farnsworth Communications Director David Troup