Lot 28
  • 28

Andrew Wyeth

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Andrew Wyeth
  • Perpetual Care
  • signed Andrew Wyeth (lower right)
  • drybrush on paper
  • 29 by 23 1/4 inches
  • (73.7 by 59.1 cm)
  • Executed in 1961.


Mr. and Mrs. Frederic C. Dumaine, Jr., Weston, Massachusetts, 1962 (acquired from the artist)
By descent (sold: Sotheby’s, New York, December 3, 1998, lot 267)
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale


Buffalo, New York, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Andrew Wyeth: Temperas, Water Colors and Drawings, November-December 1962, no. 138, p. 16, illustrated p. 74
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Baltimore, Maryland, Baltimore Museum of Art; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Andrew Wyeth: Temperas, Watercolors, Dry Brush, Drawings 1938 into 1966, October 1966-April 1967, no. 164, p. 80, illustrated p. 81
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Andrew Wyeth, July-September 1970, no. 130, p. 191, illustrated p. 190
San Francisco, California, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, The Art of Andrew Wyeth, June-September 1973
Tokyo, Japan, National Museum of Modern Art; Kyoto, Japan, National Museum of Modern Art, Andrew Wyeth, April-June 1974
London, England, Royal Academy of Arts, Andrew Wyeth, June-August 1980
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum, A Time to Mourn, January-May 1981
Rockland, Maine, William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Andrew Wyeth: Something of the Artist, July-October 1988
Rockland, Maine, Farnsworth Art Museum, Andrew Wyeth: Maine Paintings, May-October 2002


Raoul Tunley, “The Wonderful World of Andrew Wyeth,” Woman’s Day, August 1963, illustrated p. 34
Richard Meryman, Andrew Wyeth, Boston, Massachusetts, 1968, pp. 104, 173, illustrated p. 116
Ralph Brem, “Andrew Wyeth – Against the Tide of Op and Pop,” Sunday Roto, The Pittsburgh Press, October 13, 1968, p. 40
Katharine Kuh, “Why Wyeth?,” Saturday Review, October 26, 1968, vol. 51, no. 43, p. 26
A.R. Ammons, “For Andrew Wyeth,” The New York Times Book Review, October 27, 1968, p. 56
Philip Isaacson, “Wyeth: the next best thing,” Maine Sunday Telegram, October 27, 1968
“Gift book deluxe,” Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, Ohio, November 17, 1968, n.p.
North Shore, Perpertual [sic] Care, July 11, 1970, n.p.
Lee Sheridan, “Wyeth observes effects of nature on world,” Daily News, Springfield, Massachusetts, July 20, 1970, n.p.
Mizue: A Monthly Review of the Fine Arts, no. 820, 1973, illustrated n.p.
Aubrey Cannon, “Going in Style, The Role of Fashion in Ancient Burial Customs,” The Sciences, vol. 31, no. 6, November/December 1991, p. 38
R. Baird Shuman, ed., Great American Writers, Tarrytown, New York, 2002, n.p, illustrated
Audrey Lewis, Nancy Weekly, et al., Exalted Nature: The Real and Fantastic World of Charles E. Burchfield, Buffalo, New York, 2014, n.p.

Catalogue Note

Throughout his career Andrew Wyeth consistently drew inspiration from his immediate surroundings. Nearly all of his subjects were located in or near the two places he loved most–Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he was born and raised, and Cushing, Maine, where he spent his summers beginning as a child. Executed in 1961, Perpetual Care depicts the Baptist church and adjacent cemetery near the artist’s home in the latter locale. In a letter from the artist to Mr. and Mrs. Dumaine, the original owners of this work, Wyeth wrote “The dry brush watercolor ‘Perpetual Care’ I consider one of my very best in this medium" (Letter, A. Wyeth to Mr. and Mrs. Dumaine, 1961, n.p.).  The artist’s deep feeling for the landscape and atmosphere of Maine expressed in Perpetual Care is reflected in his decision to complete this work using the drybrush technique. Speaking about this use of drybrush, Wyeth continues, “I have said to myself many, many times that I think Dürer must have been the originator of the drybrush method of watercolor. People have thought that perhaps I was, but I certainly am not … I work in drybrush when my emotion gets deep enough into a subject. So I paint with a smaller brush, dip it into color, splay out the brush and bristles, squeeze out a good deal of the moisture and color with my fingers so that there is only a very small amount of paint left … Drybrush is layer upon layer. It is what I would call a definite weaving process” (as quoted in Thomas Hoving, Two World of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, New York, 1976, pp. 17, 33).

Wyeth studied the church closely before painting it and found it provided the ideal subject with which to explore his impressions of the stark New England landscape. The tranquility and quiet calm of the cemetery echoes Wyeth’s impression of the entire coastal town, with the elaborate headstones recalling the gingerbread moldings that decorated the simple white houses of Cushing. In order to achieve this perspective of the church towering above the viewer, Wyeth must have been sitting on the ground with his eyes at the same level as the gravestones. Drybrush allowed Wyeth to instill his pictures with a lasting quality seemingly exempt from the passing of time. In Perpetual Care, he utilized meticulous and minute brushstrokes to render elements of the composition such as clapboard panels of the church and the chimney. Like Durer, Wyeth employed the drybrush technique to define each blade of grass with exacting detail (Fig. 1). His title of the painting not only reinforces his impression of the endless state of death, with the descendants of those resting here responsible for painting this resting place forever, but also his understanding of the drybrush method where layers of paint must be applied in careful, deliberate layers.

The enigmatic feeling that radiates from Wyeth’s Perpetual Care brings to mind the work of the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich, who explored spiritual impulses and challenged the boundaries of realism. Friedrich featured cemeteries or graves in over two dozen of his works including Abbey in the Oakwood, one of his most well-known works that depicts a funeral procession traveling amidst Gothic ruins and twisted oak trees (Fig. 2). Both artists present the viewer with imagery that is recognizable yet somehow unfamiliar, ultimately creating the sense that the place as we see it is not exactly what it appears to be. The Baptist church in Perpetual Care challenged Wyeth in exactly this manner. As Richard Meryman writes, “the pale, strained face of a girl dressed in white once seemed to Wyeth to be looking out of the high rear window of the Baptist Church across the St. George River. Wyeth, through binoculars, had been studying this church – an echo of Cushing with its frame structure and cemetery monuments mottle orange by lichen. He investigated and found nobody there. But the powerful impression remained” (as quoted in Andrew Wyeth, Boston, Massachusetts, 1968, p. 104).

This work will be included in Betsy James Wyeth’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work.