Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Close Look at Andrew Wyeth's Painting, Christina's World + FOOD: Vichyssoise Ice Cream

Christina's World
Painting by Andrew Wyeth,1948
permanent collection: Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Egg Tempera on Gessoed Panel

Taking a Very 
Close Look at 
Andrew Wyeth's 
Christina's World
at MoMA

Christina's World is a 1948 painting by American painter Andrew Wyeth, and is one of the best-known American paintings of the middle 20th century. It depicts a woman, Anna Christina Olson, crawling across a treeless field, looking toward a gray house, a barn and various other outbuildings on the horizon.

This egg tempera work is done in a sub-style of realistic art, historians refer to as magic realism and the painting currently is on display at MoMA in New York City in the 2nd floor hallway leading to the main escalators, as a part of their permanent collection.

Christina's World was first exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in Manhattan in 1948. Although it received little attention from critics at the time, the painting was quickly bought by Alfred Barr, the founding director of MoMA, for $1,800. Barr promoted the painting at MoMA and it gradually grew in popularity over the years. Today, it is considered an icon of American art and is rarely loaned out by the museum.

The woman in the painting is intended to represent Anna Christina Olson (May 1893 – January 1968). She suffered from a genetic neuropathy, so crawling was the way she moved around naturally. Wyeth was inspired to create the painting when he saw her crawling across a field while he was watching from a window in the house. Andrew Wyeth had a summer home in the area and was friends with the Olsons. He used her and her younger brother as the subjects of several paintings. Although Christina Olson was the inspiration and the subject of this painting, she was not the primary model — Wyeth's wife Betsy posed as the torso for the painting. Olson was 55 at the time Wyeth created this 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 and operated by the Farnsworth Art Museum. It is a National Historic Landmark and has been restored to match its appearance in the painting. Wyeth used his artistic license in the painting to improve the composition and gave more separation between the house and the barn on the left than is true of the real house and he changed the lay of the land to add drama.

Editor's Note: 
When I look at a painting I get as close as the museum allows so that I may intently study how the artwork was created. In this case I wanted to see how the layers of  paint and the many individual hairline brush strokes make-up this painting, along with the colors used and how they were juxtaposed to each other for effect. Egg tempera was the painting medium of choice before oil paint was invented. Wyeth was a master of this old medium which uses egg yolks mixed with pigment. People have said there were always egg shells everywhere while Andrew Wyeth was painting.

• Now let's take a "Close Look" at Andy Wyeth's technique for his famous painting: "Christina's World", c. 1948.

First let's look at how he painted the figure, Christina.

Christina at the lower left of the painting is why this work is so mysterious and magical. In reality, this is a true depiction of Christina Olson's life, as she crawled instead of walked. She suffered from a rare crippling form of genetic neuropathy.

Christina's wind-blown hair. (enlargement below)

Christina's hair is very believably rendered as it is tossed about by the wind.

Christina's out of proportion left hand is shown gripping the ground, while her right hand is diminutive and shrunken. The individual blades of tall yellow/brown grass were painted with individual strokes of the brush, 
one at a time.
(enlargement below)

Christina's unusually large left hand was possibly caused by that hand being her main source of propulsion.

Christina's wrinkled elbow and a detail of her belt.

Christina's dress, lower legs and shoes + grass detail. (enlargement below)

There is a presence in Christina's legs and shoes that is almost photographic,
and from an artist's point of view, you feel her body weight interacting with the ground.

Next, let's look at how he painted the barn and a flock of birds.

The Olson barn is isolated from the house, at the top of a mowed field 
and we can barely see the flock of birds flying around it.

The barn sits convincingly attached to the earth, just below the horizon line,
and we can sense the age and texture of the wooden building.

This detail is a quite small area on the actual painting. Although our photo is not entirely sharp, one can still understand the quick, mostly blurred, brush strokes depicting birds. 

Finally, let's look at how he painted the Olson House and some details in the grass.

The Olson House

Detail of the weathered and unpainted Olson House.

Detail  of the out-buildings and side yard (enlargement below)

The Olson house's out-buildings, with laundry hanging on the line. 
Notice how many individual strokes make up every part of this painting. 
This is partly due to the technique needed for the Egg Tempera medium, it dries very quickly.

Field, (enlargement below)

Layers of yellows and brown strokes make up the grassy fields.

Ruts in the field (enlargement below)

The ruts are very realistic upon inspection.

Christina's World
Andrew Wyeth,1948
Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Egg Tempera on Gessoed Panel

(Source: Photos were taken by ARTSnFOOD staff, with the permission of the museum + some photos were supplied by MoMA. The text was adapted from the reference source, Wikipedia)

A New Take
on Vichyssoise
Make it into a Savory Ice Cream!


The original recipe (below) for vichyssoise is from Chef Louis Diat, the Ritz Carlton chef who created it first. Vichyssoise will also work as a base for savory ice cream. 

Vichyssoise (original recipe)

4 leeks (white parts)
1 medium onion
2 ounces sweet butter
5 medium potatoes
1 quart water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups milk
2 cups medium cream (half & half)
1 cup heavy cream
Chopped chives (fresh)

Finely slice the white parts of the leeks and the onion, and brown very lightly in sweet butter, then add the potatoes, also sliced finely. Add water or broth and salt. Boil 35 to 40 minutes. Crush and rub through a fine strainer. Return to heat and add 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of medium cream (half & half). Season to taste and bring to a boil. Cool and then rub again through a fine strainer.
1) When soup is cold add the heavy cream. Chill and serve, garnished with chopped chives.
2) When soup is cold, stir in the heavy cream and put the mixture into an ice cream freezer. Allow the vichyssoise to churn until it forms a rich, creamy, ice cream. Scoop onto plates or bowls, garnish with chopped chives and serve!


(an easy, less time consuming recipe)

• 2 1/2 cups finely diced raw potatoes
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 6 leeks, cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces
• 3 cups chicken broth
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• Dash of nutmeg
• 2 cups or heavy cream
• Chives (fresh)

Cook the potatoes in salted water to cover until just tender. Melt the butter in a skillet and cook the leeks gently, tossing them lightly, for a few minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the leeks until tender. Add the potatoes to the leeks and the broth and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Put this mixture into a blender. (Caution: be careful when pouring hot liquid into a blender, the blender must be in the off position and fill only half way. Also be careful to watch for steam when removing the lid.) You will need to blend the soup in more than one batch - for one minute or until smooth. Put into the fridge to cool. When cool, stir in the heavy cream and put the mixture into an ice cream freezer. Allow the vichyssoise to churn until it forms the consistency of ice cream.
Scoop the savory ice cream onto plates or bowls, garnish with chives and serve!
A very different way to serve a savory cold soup!!!

(Source: A combination of recipes; Savory Vichyssoise Ice Cream from the Atkinson Family Cookbook, based on the original vichyssoise recipe from Time Life's Classic French Cooking,; the quick leek and potato vichyssoise from

Until later,
ARTSnFOOD is an online magazine dedicated to providing artists and collectors around the world with highlights of current art exhibitions, and to encourage all readers to invest in and participate in "The Joy of Art"® and culture. All rights reserved. All Concepts, Original Art, Text & Photographs in this posting (which are not credited) are © Copyright 2016 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. All gallery, event, museum, fair or festival photographs were taken with permission. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

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