09 February 2009

Andrew Wyeth and Christina's World


"Christina's World" was painted by the American artist, Andrew Wyeth. It is probably his best-known work, alongside the "Helga" collection. This painting shows a woman lying on the ground, in a tall, grassy field, looking toward her house off on the horizon. It is currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

The woman of the painting is Christina Olson who was one of Wyeth's neighbors in Cushing, Maine. She had an undiagnosed condition that paralyzed her lower body. Wyeth was inspired to make the painting when one day he saw her crawling across a field. In the painting, Wyeth used his artistic license to separate the house from its barn and change the lay of the land.

Wyeth was friends with Christina and her brother, using both as the subjects of paintings from 1940 to 1968. Wyeth's wife Betsy James Wyeth posed as the torso of the painting. The house depicted in the painting is known as the Olson House, and is located in Cushing, Maine. It is open to the public as a part of the Farnsworth Museum and it is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It has been restored to match its appearance in the painting.

"Christina's World" has made its way into pop culture:
In the novel A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, Nomi Nickel hangs a Christina's World poster up in her room.

In the science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is one of the two paintings Dave Bowman sees hanging on the wall at the reception stage of his journey.

The 1997 Dutch novel Want dit is mijn lichaam from Renate Dorrestein describes a fictitious story behind this masterpiece.

In the film Forrest Gump the painting is referenced when Jenny and Forrest return to Jenny's childhood home. After throwing rocks at her house Jenny falls to the ground and turns away in an homage to Christina's World.

In the DVD extras to the movie Tideland, the directorsays "Christina's World" was an inspiration in determining the backdrop and mood for the movie.
"Christina's World" appears briefly on a postcard in the movie The In Crowd.

In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode Laserblast, an alien with a gun arm falls down and Tom Servo says "Ah, Christina's World 3001."

A satire of the painting was in The Simpsons episode "Springfield Up". The painting was featured Mr. Burns in Christina's place.

"Christina's World" also inspired the song "Christina's World" by The Big Dish.

Wyethe's painting is also in the comic book series Preacher by Garth Ennis. Jesse Custer sees his mom's favorite painting at the Museum of Modern Art. There is another comic issue which is entitled "Christina's World" and the cover art is a reference to the original painting.
Blue Man Group used a prop that looked like this painting. The prop used a removable Christina, which is revealed when removed with a vacuum.

MAD magazine released its annual list of the "Dumbest People, Events, and Things" and in it is a parody of the painting but showing Hillary Rodham Clinton in the field, with the U.S. Capitol building instead of the house.
Click on the links below for information on:

Andrew Wyeth's biography
The Helga Paintings


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