Acquired by the present owner directly from the artist, 1999
Throughout his career the themes of illness, mortality, time and eternity have informed Wyeth's work. In Cape May, executed in 1992, Wyeth paints a nun staring out to sea, resting against a dory on the beach, a subject which evokes both nineteenth century symbolism and Wyeth's own pictorial lexicon. Anne Classen Knutson writes: "Boats are established metaphors for mortality in American art. Thomas Cole and Winslow Homer, for example, used them to suggest the vulnerability of life. In the pictorial mythology of old New England, the lone figure and lone dory represent endurance and individualism. Wyeth's early depictions of boats are part of those traditions, while his later works lend an idiosyncratic tone to the conventional symbolism" (Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, New York, 2005, p.69). The nun in Cape May is wearing the large starched cornette and blue robe associated with the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, a Roman Catholic congregation of women founded in 1633 devoted to helping and healing the sick and dying. A rosary dangling from her waistband lies conspicuously beside her in the sand.
"Early in his career, Wyeth studied Winslow Homer's late watercolors, assimilating their technique and subject mater. Homer was a Wyeth family icon... Winslow Homer's images of the northern New England coast expressed and celebrated old-time New England values, setting the standard for younger image-makers who would produce pictures in this tradition. ...Like Homer, Wyeth turned his back on the urbanization and industrialization of American cities, looking out to the sea and the adjacent land for universal metaphors of life and death" (Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, New York, 2005, p.50).
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