Painted in 2001.
Please note this lot retains its original frame designed by the artist.
Ann Classen Knutson, author of "Andrew Wyeth's Language of Things" writes "Andrew Wyeth has said repeatedly that his work is mostly about memories... There is a strong correlation in Wyeth's work between people disappearing or dying and objects becoming alive with meaning and associations. Wyeth paints things to explore loss and the inevitability of death and many of those objects become posthumous homages to dead family and friends...While Wyeth's paintings address common themes of memory, nostalgia and loss, they are also intensely private meditations, filled with hidden symbolism and self-exploration. His paintings are deliberate puzzles that challenge the viewer to decode them" (Andrew Wyeth, Memory and Magic, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2006, p. 45). Wyeth himself stated, "I am an illustrator of my own life."
In 2001, at the age of 89, Andrew Wyeth painted Sparks, a work rife with autobiographical references, both overt and coded, depicting the grand stone hearth of his Chadds Ford mill house. Within the hearth, a metaphor for home and a vital, creative center, a fire, a dichotomous symbol of destruction and provision, rages. Sending forth burning embers and trails of smoke, the fire interrupts the clean, cool interior. A low ceiling and rustic wooden beams slope steeply towards the hearth and its grid of sand stone tiles cut a sharp diagonal path towards the fire. The frame, designed by the artist, further emphasizes this dramatic use of perspective. Knutson writes, "Wyeth imaginatively inhabits his painted interiors. The close perspective goes beyond implying the artist's presence to produce the sense that he has actually become the room" (Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, pp. 77-78). On the right wall, Wolf Moon is rendered in reverse, reflected in a small courting mirror, a sign of the artist's presence. The watercolor, still in Wyeth's personal collection, depicts Kuerner's farm, as seen from Wyeth's home.
As in many of Wyeth's paintings, the subject and the setting are quite firmly grounded in the ordinary: here, a familiar spare interior. Such works are notable, most often, for the absence of the figure, where an object or space acts as a surrogate for the human presence. "In many cases, objects become portraits of their dead or otherwise absent owners...Often, when Wyeth juxtaposes people with objects, the objects appear more the specific and detailed, and even seem more animated than the figures. Sometimes Wyeth completely 'paints out' the figure, erasing it in the final version and leaving the objects to speak" (Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, 2006, p. 47).
Richard Meryman, Wyeth's biographer writes, "Wyeth's northern sensibility—blackness of the fairy tales of the brothers Grimm—contains a timeless fatalism, very real to the mass of Americans who feel vulnerable, who know about anxiety and regret, who remember their only half buried childhood terrors. Not unlike the poetry of Robert Frost, the interior darkness is potent because the mood inhabits what is familiar, often ordinary. Though Wyeth speaks in atmospheres, his major works speak of acceptance and quiet endurance, offer the reassurances that the worst can be faced and resolved with dignity and self-sufficiency. He offers a transmutation of fear into a cruel beauty—the redemption intrinsic in high art" (Andrew Wyeth: A Biography, p. 409).
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