After visiting Wyeth’s paintings at the Farnsworth in Maine this summer, I knew I wanted to make it down to the National Gallery to see the “Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In” exhibit. I finally made it down to DC on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago.
The exhibit is centered around Wyeth’s depiction of windows and inspired by the museum’s recent acquisition of Wind from the Sea.
I found, as I had at the Farnsworth, that the paintings carry a depth in person that muddies in reproductions. The National Gallery actually has a pretty nice digital image of Wind from the Sea, but even that doesn’t quite convey the delicacy and flight of those curtains, and the way the landscape mutes and shifts between the open window and the gauzed lace.
It was interesting to see Wyeth’s paintings from Maine and Brandywine all mixed together in one gallery space. He is a painter whose work seems so anchored in place — so deeply tied to particular atmospheres and textures. Wyeth talked about his habit of walking and its role in his life as an artist. That connection to landscape feels intrinsic, also, in the finished paintings. Seeing his work in Maine — in that old white church behind the Farnsworth — felt like a means of immersing more deeply in place.
At the National Gallery, I lost some of that deep-seated sense of connection, of immediacy. In a way, though, freeing the paintings from place allowed me to understand them differently: to acquire a more overarching, canonical sense of Wyeth as an artist. Which may be one of the more important legacies of this exhibit. So often during his lifetime, Wyeth’s work was critically underappreciated in an era of radical redefinitions of visual art. “Looking Out, Looking In” reclaims the bold invention of Wyeth’s oevure, and calls on the contemporary viewer to reconsider the impact of his work.
If you haven’t yet been to see it, “Looking Out, Looking In” is on view at the National Gallery through November 30.