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March 16, 2007

Philadelphia Doppelgänger

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards--

You probably know about this.

I just discovered it. After all, there's never been a curve I haven't been behind.

Anyway, behold paintings by two well-known Philadelphia-area artists:

An Arcadian - Thomas Eakins, c. 1883

Christina's World - Andrew Wyeth, 1948



posted by Donald at March 16, 2007


I prefer the Eakins. Obviously a very beautiful picture even in a miniature, liquid-crystal reduction. Semi-impressionistic, somewhere between Renoir and Cezanne. Also interesting is how different the emotional feeling of the two pictures, despite the obvious similarity; Eakin's figure, while possibly not entirely satisfied in her being, is no where near as stressed out as Wyeth's. Thus while there is a possible -- probable -- influence, there is no real stealing going on. If anything a contrast between the historical moods of the late 19th century vs. mid-20th. Thoughts of a very unprofessional, occassional viewer of art.

Posted by: Luke Lea on March 16, 2007 11:39 AM

The composition is similar, certainly, but the emotional tone of the two paintings seems very different to me. The Wyeth painting conveys longing, striving (I once heard Christina was crippled, although I don't know if that is true, but if so, there's a true gruesomeness to the Wyeth painting)while the first painting seems to indicate serenity, just sitting peacefully in a field. Believe it or not, the Wyeth painting was hung in my eye doctor's office when I was a child, and I always found it both fascinating and quite disturbing.

Posted by: annette on March 16, 2007 12:05 PM

"I once heard Christina was crippled, although I don't know if that is true"

Sort of true. Christina indeed was disabled, and the head, arms and upper body depicted in the painting are hers. For the legs and lower body, however, Wyeth used his (non-disabled) wife as a model.

Posted by: Peter on March 16, 2007 1:35 PM

Wyeth most likely made a conscious reference tp the Eakins painting. There are plenty of differences, of course, both aesthetic and conceptual. Eakins was painting an idealized mythic scene, Wyeth was portraying a woman he knew well and painted often, Christine Olsen. The farm is also very real, the Olsen farm in Cushing, Maine (now owned by the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland Maine). Olsen was indeed disabled and there is a definite air of struggle and longing evoked by the painting. Without assistance it would be a long, difficult and painful struggle for Olsen to pull herself back to the farmhouse up that stubbled hillside field. That said, his use of the bright pink for the dress adds a note of life and hopefulness to the otherwise stark scene.

Posted by: Chris White on March 16, 2007 1:53 PM

The extent of sky/land area and the few houses set at the meetig line between the two, means a lot to me. It's indeed Christina's world.

look fr studio LDA

Posted by: look on March 16, 2007 2:18 PM

Visual arts aren't really my bag, although of course I know this very famous Wyeth. I'm wondering whether anyone here shares my problem with bluntly symbolic titles like "Christina's World". I probably would have called it something like "Christina #15". :)

Posted by: J. Goard on March 16, 2007 10:37 PM

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