DescriptionANDREW WYETH (American, 1917-2009)
Coastal Survey , 1955
Watercolor on paper
21 x 29 inches (53.3 x 73.7 cm)
Signed on lower right edge just left of the corner of the sheet: Andrew Wyeth
PROPERTY FORMERLY FROM THE BROOKE ASTOR COLLECTION
This fascinating watercolor by Andrew Wyeth records a subject and landscape that caught the artist's attention during the summer of 1955. The wind-buffeted fabric forming a rustic-looking tent shelters a geodetic survey marker Wyeth observed on the coast of Maine near Port Clyde, not far from the Wyeths' summer home. According to Betsy Wyeth's handwritten record book of her husband's paintings, the proper title for this work is Coastal Survey, which had been altered by Andrew's New York dealer, Knoedler and Co., to Survey Marker, then subsequently to Geodetic Survey Marker, Maine around the time they sold it in June of 1956 to Brooke Astor. In her notes, Betsy crossed out Survey Marker and restored the (her) original title.
Coastal Survey has been in private hands from the time it was painted, and has never been publicly exhibited or offered at auction. Brooke Astor displayed the painting for many years at Cove End, her home in Maine's Northeast Harbor, about 100 miles from the spot of Andrew Wyeth's inspiration.
Painted very directly, with Wyeth's remarkable verve and uncanny skill in capturing highlight, shadow and atmospheric effects, Coastal Survey is a work for which no preliminary studies exist. The artist worked with both wet brush and dry brush in a wide range of brush sizes, splattering and scratching through paint to the white paper beneath to create the effect of light glancing off the edges of tall grass, notably in the middle ground. One of the artist's favorite compositional devices for conveying depth is present in Coastal Survey: the sliver of a peninsula in the distance beyond the blue curve of the inlet.
While the subject of a geodetic marker is unique in Andrew Wyeth's oeuvre, there is a somewhat related work of 1944 in the oeuvre of the artist's father, N. C. Wyeth, showing a landscape with a hydrographic signal entitled Blubber Island, Port Clyde, Maine (see Christine Podmaniczky's N. C. Wyeth Catalogue Raisonne [ L.226 (428)]. In N. C. Wyeth's painting, a rare work in egg tempera on hardboard (24 3/8 x 48 in. (61.9 x 121.9 cm), Collection of the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, PA, Gift of Winfield Foster, Mark Foster and Julie Foster Gilbert, 2005), the signal is a much smaller but more literal feature of the composition than the marker in Coastal Survey. N. C. Wyeth designed his composition so that the bright red marker is easily seen on the summit of a cluster of dark rocks, across a body of water. The environment is carefully staged. By contrast, Coastal Marker is a much more ambiguous painting since the actual marker is, in fact, unobservable, planted as it is in the ground and hidden by grass under the tent which marks its location. The subject of Andrew Wyeth's painting is arguably even more about the haunting quality of light, shadow, and wind on the piece of the earth we measure during our lives--defining, obscuring, ruffling the grass and stretching the canvas of the tent into mysterious patterns of emotion. In this deceptively simple image, Andrew Wyeth, celebrated realist, shows his consummate mastery of abstract design and with it the expressive power he was capable of harnessing.
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.
Slight undulation of paper under mat, otherwise in very good condition. Andrew Wyeth's signature is quite faint but present, and it embosses slightly into the heavy watercolor paper. Framed Dimensions 28.25 X 35.75 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. 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. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.
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