Andrew Wyeth would have been 100 years old today; and, yes, this Turkey Vulture soaring over us a few days ago was an especially relevant reminder of one of America’s leading members of the Magic Realism School.
Such birds are the focal point of Soaring, perhaps Wyeth’s first major visualization of an out-of-body experience. (Wyeth and Edward Hopper, among others, are known for realistic renderings that have sometimes-hidden, mystical meanings, at least to the artists -- a school or style dubbed by the Museum of Modern Art and others as Magic Realism.)
As for Soaring, that egg tempera painting was started in 1942, but Wyeth abandoned it in large part because his famous father hated it. In 1950, Wyeth finished it at the suggestion of an art critic.
In Soaring, Wyeth places viewers above three Turkey Vultures as they ominously wheel high in a big sky; they – and we – look down over the rural Pennsylvania area of Wyeth’s birth and death. The only structure shown is the Kuerner (aka Koerner) Farm where Wyeth painted in an upstairs room. It's where Carl Kuerner lured and shot a Turkey Vulture so that Wyeth could study it for the painting.
While Soaring lay abandoned, Wyeth completed his most famous tempera, Christina’s World, which was finished in 1948.
In that painting, crippled Anna Christina Olson – and we, eventually – stare up the slope of a Maine field, looking toward the Olson farm buildings on the horizon of a very small sky. Here, we’re provoked by an inner- (and broken-) body experience involving Christina’s life of crawling over her land.
Wyeth was intrigued by (if not obsessed with) strangeness and death, but he lived a long and controversial life. He died at the age of 91 in January of 2009. Images of Soaring and Christina’s World are reproduced here for educational purposes only.