Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In

May 5, 2014 5:41PM
The haunting 1972 tempera painting on panel, "Off at Sea" (© Andrew Wyeth), is reproduced from Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In, the essential exhibition catalogue to the blockbuster show opening at the National Gallery of Art this Sunday, May 4. In her opening essay, exhibition curator Nancy K. Anderson quotes Betsy Wyeth, the artist's wife, who "explained that the phrase 'off at sea' had particular meaning for those with deep roots in seafaring Maine. The reference is to people 'gone,' 'lost,' 'off at sea.' Thus the coat hanger without a coat — the spare wire casting a soft shadow against a clapboard wall — becomes the pictorial equivalent of the graveyard out the window in 'Wind from the Sea.' An eerie light sets the tone. Elegant in its apparent simplicity, 'Off at Sea' openly displays the abstract armature — the skeletal structure — that invariably lies beneath the surface of Wyeth’s finest paintings. Firm in his belief that a painting should be both abstract and realistic, Wyeth skillfully pared his subject to the bone, creating another haunted meditation on death."
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