Lot 135
  • 135

Andrew Wyeth b. 1917

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Andrew Wyeth
  • South Cushing
  • signed Andrew Wyeth, l.l.
  • tempera on panel

  • 27 1/2 by 36 1/2 in.
  • (70 by 92.7 cm)
  • Painted in 1955.


Private Collection, Wenham, Massachusetts, 1955 (acquired directly from the artist)
By direct descent to the present owner


Washington, D.C., The White House, President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Office, November 1955-January 1956
Cambridge, Massachusetts, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Andrew Wyeth-A Retrospective Exhibition of Temperas and Watercolors, November-December 1960, no. 267
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Baltimore, Maryland, Baltimore Museum of Art; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, Andrew Wyeth-Temperas, Watercolors, Dry Brush, Drawings 1938-1966, October 1966-June 1967, no. 350
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Andrew Wyeth, July-September 1970, no. 117, illustrated p. 179
Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art, Andrew Wyeth at 80: A Celebration, July 1997-October 1997, no. 1345
Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art, 1997-2006 (on loan)


Richard Meryman, Andrew Wyeth, Boston, Massachusetts, 1969, p. 106, illustrated in color
Jack Lloyd, "A Tribute to America's Foremost Artist- Hundreds Jam Academy for Wyeth Exhibit," The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 1966
"Wyeth Exhibit- 80 Collections Lend Paintings," Times, Beverly, Massachusetts, July 1970, p. 8
The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Massachusetts, July 1970
"Andrew Wyeth Painting Stolen," Times, Kansas City, Missouri, March 1976

Catalogue Note

Born and raised in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Andrew Wyeth began spending each summer in Maine at the age of three, when his father, the celebrated American illustrator N.C. Wyeth, bought a rambling old sea captain’s house in Port Clyde at the end of the St. George Peninsula.  By the 1920s, N.C. had begun to reap the financial rewards of his extremely successful career and was considered a minor celebrity.  A cook, butler and new car were added to the family home in Chadds Ford; the house in Maine was completely renovated and renamed Eight Bells, after the famous painting by Winslow Homer.  Andrew, the youngest of N.C.’s five children, grew up amidst considerable luxury, surrounded by the crowd of contemporary luminaries, such as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, that his charismatic father attracted.  N.C. encouraged all of his children to develop their artistic talents, but for Andrew, art was something best nourished in solitude, away from his boisterous household and the shadow of his famous father.


From the family’s home in Port Clyde, Wyeth explored the surrounding woods, fields and outlying islands, and gradually became acquainted with the local people; through them, he was exposed to a side of Maine that most tourists and summer residents rarely saw. Behind the picturesque, weather-beaten facades of the farmhouses scattered along the St. George Peninsula, lobster fishermen, farmers and their families were often found living in conditions that had changed little since their ancestors had first settled the region prior to the American Revolution.  In 1939 at the age of 22, Wyeth met Betsy James, his future wife, in Cushing, Maine, directly across the St. George River from Port Clyde.  Betsy introduced Wyeth to Christina and Alvaro Olson and his attraction to both the people and the location was immediate.  Wyeth and Betsy settled in Cushing for the summers and the surrounding landscape became an essential backdrop for Wyeth’s most celebrated works, including Christina’s World in 1948.  Wyeth mused, “To me, Cushing is a clear, clean remote place—a damask napkin, with a little sun on it, a little wind.” 


South Cushing was painted in 1955 on nearby Frank Crute’s farm.  The composition features a lone, dark horse in an open field, a distant farm house in the background. Frank Crute earned his living from the land and, like many of his fellow farmers, he struck a stark contrast with the summer population.  It was those ‘salt of the earth’ New England residents with whom Wyeth most easily identified.  Anne Classen Knutson writes, “Wyeth’s weathered and worn but enduring objects have much in common with their owners.  Many of Wyeth’s models were outsiders, misfits who lived on the outskirts of society and endured physical disability, mental illness, and poverty.  Wyeth identified with them.  ‘I don’t fit in.’ he once remarked” (Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic, “Andrew Wyeth’s Language of Things,” Atlanta, Georgia, 2005, p. 47).


Frank Crute and the other men of Cushing paid great attention in particular to their horses and traveling far distances to attend horse-pulling contests.   When Wyeth first started sketching the retired mare pictured in South Cushing, she was grazing in the open field.  Mr. Crute discovered Wyeth sketching and the very next morning he proudly dressed the animal in a harness with polished brass fittings for the occasion.  John Wilmerding writes, “Wyeth has painted ordinary things as surrogates for the human presence, both of others and himself” (Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic, p. 15).  In South Cushing, the empathetic rendering of the lone horse, tired, but still standing, echoes the work ethic and enduring existence of Cushing's aging but steadfast farmers.   

In the present painting, Wyeth employs his familiar lexicon of subtle earthen tones to suggest the soft light and tonal atmosphere of the Maine summer landscape.  By weaving intricate layers of tempera, he creates a richly patterned surface which mimics the texture of the earth with unfailing realism.  Wyeth writes, “I think the real reason tempera fascinated me was that I loved the quality of the colors: the earth colors, the terra verde, the ochers, the reds, the Indian reds, and the blue-reds are superb.  …I’ve been blamed from time to time, for the fact that my pictures are colorless, but the color I use is so much like the country I live in.  …Tempera is, in a sense, like building, really building in great layers the way the earth was built.  It all depends on what you have in the depth of your being” (Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, New York, 1976, pp. 34-35).  Ms. Knutson suggests that Wyeth’s interest in tempera also has symbolic resonance.  Wyeth has often referred to a beehive, an emblem for memory, as a metaphor for his work in the medium.  Ms. Knutson writes, “The hard medium of tempera, therefore, allowed Wyeth to fix his memories for eternity, giving enduring life to people, events and things.  Moreover, the dryness of the medium perfectly suited and possibly influenced his decision to move his objects from watery environs to drier, island interiors” (Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic, p. 52).


Inasmuch as South Cushing is a meticulously painted record of the horse and all of its trappings, down to the brass detail on the harness, it is also a sentient portrait which presents the horse as the ‘protagonist of the farm.’ Anne Classen Knutson writes, “Wyeth is disappointed when his work is praised for its realism.  He is most gratified when a painting seems to suspend time and place, triggering in his viewer’s minds some of the memories, fantasies and sensations that inspired him to paint it.  The apparently airless and physically uninhabitable settings he creates in his art suggest that these paintings originate in the mind, not the eye.  Shifting scales, odd perspectives, unnatural light, and a uniformly sharp focus also contributes to these otherworldly environments that evoke memories, enact dreams and fulfill desires.  His realism is magic realism, prompted by dreams and the imagination rather than observed reality” (Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic, p. 47).   In South Cushing, as in many of Wyeth’s indelible images of Maine, the artist offers evocative and poignant testimony to the resourcefulness and resilience of old time New Englanders, and the beauty of their way of life. 


South Cushing was prominently hung in the Wyeth home in Cushing following its completion in 1955.  Later that summer, the present owner’s parents visited Andrew and Betsy and were immediately taken with the tempera.  They left that afternoon the proud owners of South Cushing and it has remained in the family ever since.