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Andrew Wyeth: Ericksons


The Farnsworth Art Museum will open a new Andrew Wyeth exhibition on Sunday, May 25, 2003, and continuing through October 26, 2003, in the Hadlock and Wyeth Study Center Galleries. "Andrew Wyeth: Ericksons" features over 30 of Wyeth's paintings and drawings of the Ericksons, Wyeth's neighbors in Cushing. Andrew Wyeth met 13-year-old Siri at the Erickson's home in Cushing in the fall of 1967, just prior to his return to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. He was able to complete a brief drawing of the girl posing with her cat in the doorway before he left for the winter. Christina Olson, Wyeth's friend and model in Cushing for nearly 30 years, passed away that winter and the artist felt the loss keenly. The fresh face of the young Erickson girl would return to the artist's memory; and as soon as he returned to Maine in the late spring of 1968, he contacted Siri to ask her to pose. The artist stated in a 1977 article in Horizon: (right: Andrew Wyeth, Siri, 1970, © Andrew Wyeth, Collection of the Brandywine River Museum)

"To me, these pictures of the young Siri are continuations of the Olsons, and at the same time they are sharp counteractions to the portraits of Christina, which symbolize the deterioration and the dwindling of something. In a way this was not a figure, but a burst of life."

His series of works of Siri, as well as her father George, would continue to develop over a ten-year period.

These painting and drawings, many of which are on loan from the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, mark a turning point in Wyeth's work. Although Wyeth would later garner a great deal of press surrounding his series of nudes of his Chadds Ford model Helga Testorf, "The Sauna" from 1968 of Siri was actually the artist's first nude in tempera. Wyeth's nudes of Siri have a timeless quality, featuring the youthful figure in primarily exterior natural settings. He was inspired not only by her youth and earthiness, but by the legends of her Finnish ancestors. Of "The Virgin" from 1970 Wyeth commented:

"I really like the painting because it has a kind of mythical quality. I even thought of her connection with moose, in terms of the early Finnish legend about an elk and a beautiful girl and the combination of the two. I never consider it a nude painting. I consider it more than that."

Wyeth's fascination with Siri's background would lead him to explore the larger Finnish community, resulting in paintings of the Finnish Church in South Thomaston and other Finnish neighbors.

"Ericksons" features Wyeth's paintings of a single family but honors the entire mid-coast community of Finnish-Americans. This will be the first exhibition of this important group of works in Maine.

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