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    Description

    Andrew Newell Wyeth (American, 1917-2009)
    Picnic (Tea for Two study), 1989
    Watercolor on paper
    17-1/4 x 20-7/8 inches (43.8 x 53.0 cm) (sheet)
    Signed lower left: Andrew Wyeth
    Bears indistinct inscription and date verso: 1989 / 53 / Wild & [...] / Study for Tea For Two / 207/8x28114

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Dr. and Mrs. Robert H. Baker, Greenville, Pennsylvania, acquired from the above, 1992;
    Baker Family Trust No. 1.

    EXHIBITED:
    Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, "The Land of The Brandywine," June 7-September 7, 1992;
    The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, "Andrew Wyeth: Works on Paper From Regional and National Collections," September 7-October 5, 1997.

    Some of Andrew Wyeth's most extraordinary realist portraits are actually still lifes composed of objects in settings that symbolized the family members and friends of his creative worlds in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and Cushing, Maine. Wyeth imbued certain objects--whether a corn-cutting knife and apples on a windowsill or a lone conch shell resting on a wooden table before curtained windows--with the emotional and psychic energy of the people who used them. For example, Sea Boots, 1976, depicting a pair of weathered fishing boots, tattered but standing upright on a beach, is a portrait of the lobsterman Walt Anderson, his dear friend. Likewise, Alvaro and Christina, 1968, with its placement of rustic baskets, buckets, washbasin, rags, and pots and pans beside adjacent farmhouse doors, is a double portrait of the Olson siblings, Wyeth's greatest source of inspiration from rural Maine. Within this still-life-portrait genre, the present lot, Picnic (Tea for Two Study), 1989, is noteworthy in that it represents both the artist's mother, formerly Carolyn B. Brokius, and his father, the legendary illustrator Newell Convers Wyeth. Here, Wyeth arranges a teapot and teacups belonging to Carolyn on a blanket in N.C.'s orchard beneath N.C.'s Chadds Ford studio, thereby creating a loving portrait of--and tribute to--his parents.

    Wyeth acquired his belief in the emotional import of objects and settings directly from his father. The famous illustrator of Treasure Island and The Boy's King Arthur among other children's classics, N.C. insisted upon the historical accuracy of his subjects, collecting costumes and props that his children played with in his studio. From his training with Howard Pyle, N.C. also learned the concept of artistic empathy, instilling personal expression in his subjects in such a way as to elicit a visceral response from the viewer. Wyeth observed this technique and would later practice his own version of artistic empathy: "he liked to tell how he projected himself into other people by running his hands over an object or a model's head. . . and then he would emphasize the emotional circuitry--drilling down to deep-seated memories--that helped him enter into his subject and find the artistic means to animate the materials. (D. Cateforis, ed., Rethinking Andrew Wyeth, Berkeley, 2014, p. 73) Wyeth's "desire to paint things and people in ways that aroused feelings, emotions and memories began at his father's knee" (Ibid., p. 74) and was solidified by N.C.'s tragic, untimely death. Wyeth wrote about this impactful moment:

    "I think in my life the real turning point--when the emotion thing really became the most important--was the death of my father, in 1944. He was killed when a train hit his car at a crossing. We had a wonderful friendship. Of course, he'd been my only teacher, and he was a wonderful, remarkable person. When he died, I was just a clever watercolorist--lots of swish and swash. When he died--well--now I was really on the spot and had this terrific urge to prove that what he had started in me was not in vain--to really do something serious and not play around with it, doing caricatures of nature. I had a vast gloomy feeling. Fortunately, I had always had this great emotion toward the landscape and so, with his death, I seemed to --well--the landscape took on a meaning--the quality of him." (W.M. Corn, The Art of Andrew Wyeth, Boston, 1975, p. 58)

    In Picnic, Wyeth conjures up memories of his parents by placing Carolyn's teapot and cups on a blanket in the underbrush of N.C.'s orchard. Where the final painting, Tea for Two, pictures an expansive landscape, with a field leading to background woods and a sliver of sky, the present study crops the composition, giving equal weight to the still life and surrounding nature. Wyeth's sophisticated handling of watercolor accentuates opposite tones and textures: opaque white porcelain and soft blanket contrasted with brown passages of rough tree bark, mottled leaves, and spiky blackberry brambles. One could read a deeper message into this juxtaposition: was Carolyn, like her objects, genteel and hospitable, but possibly overshadowed or enveloped by her husband, embodiment of the land of Chadds Ford? Regardless, the presence of two teacups allows us to imagine a double portrait of Carolyn and N.C. sitting together in the orchard. Picnic serves as an invitation to us, as well, to enter the scene and partake of the aesthetic and emotional power of Wyeth's art.

    We are grateful for the generous assistance of Mary Adam Landa, Wyeth Collection Manager, The Office of Andrew Wyeth LLC, for providing valuable information from the Wyeth archives, indispensable to the cataloguing of this lot, which will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the artist's work.




    Condition Report*: Framed under glass. Hinged along the top edge. Buckling throughout the sheet. 1 inch hard crease in the lower right corner. Tiny 1/4 inch tear along the left edge in the lower left quadrant. A few spots of adhesive staining on the reverse of the sheet, not visible in current framing.
    Framed Dimensions 26.5 X 30.5 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2021
    5th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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