Walking with Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth Trodden Weed 1951

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”  – Andrew Wyeth

I grew up just miles away from the historic Brandywine River Valley in Pennsylvania, one region in the northeast where the three-generational Wyeth family of artists and illustrators worked. In addition to a collection at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Maine, the Wyeth’s art collection is preserved in our beloved Brandywine River Museum, located near several landmarks that often appear in their body of work. Growing up in the exact surroundings that appeared on several canvases in the collection, it is probable that the Wyeths were the first visual artists who influenced me via shared intimacy with their subjects.

Andrew’s work has always intrigued me the most. It is no surprise to me that Andrew prefers Winter and Fall, as many of his paintings depicted the essence of those seasons. Just seeing one of his paintings instantly makes me pine for my rural Pennsylvania surroundings with a fireplace, rugged boots, and rustic outerwear. However, his landscapes and compositions are also injected with lonely tones of seasonal light. Further, they may offer the viewer an inkling that there is a story or a mystery lurking just behind a stone barn or off in the distance beyond a bank of snow. As a result, his paintings can also seem strange, even unsettling, at times.

Imagine my surprise when that same strange and unsettled sensibility I get when I look at the scenes in his work came to me Saturday morning when I was in urban Washington Square Park, NYC. The day was a sunny one, but all around me were crunchy, dead leaves and the earthy scents of Fall. There was tangible flux and weight to the air, and heavy shadows of limited light passed quickly over the buildings. Even in a busy public park sitting with friends on a bench, there was a peculiar sense of loneliness. Strange.

I also relate to Andrew’s concept of “bone structure of the landscape” and can see how this image is a macro image for our micro experience in our own bone structures. We might sense the effects of the current seasons in our bodies; our hair becomes brittle, our skin gets dry, our moods are heavier, and our sleeping patterns might be altered. Therefore, we also become unsettled.

In addition to “dead”, “lonely”, “strange”, “unsettled”, the transition between late Fall and Winter might also be described as fragile, but perhaps delicate is a better word.  Delicate implies intricacy. Delicacy also sounds deliberate, as the change of seasons, the unfolding of Winter’s tales must be.

Personally, I have always struggled with late Fall and Winter in terms of cooler temperatures and shorter days, but the idea that I could be walking through an Andrew Wyeth landscape (an urban version, of course) brings me a new excitement for the season ahead. Donning my rugged boots, I will walk along and tune into the delicate changes in my own bones, as shared with the bone structure of nature. What tale lurks for me under the snow? Or behind that leafless tree? What is awaiting me underneath my footsteps on the cold earth?

Browse some images of Andrew Wyeth’s work and share your impressions of the worlds he paints. One of my favorites is his piece which accompanies this post, Trodden Weed (1951)

– TaraMarie Perri

10 Responses to “Walking with Wyeth”
  1. Brandi-lea says:

    This reminds me of a conversation we had a few weeks ago about shedding the extra things and energies we accumulated during the frenzy of fall and deciding which essential elements to take inside with us for the winter. Indeed, as the architecture of our bodies and actions mirror the seasons, the winter is a paring down of sorts – having less daylight, warmth and energy to expend. It’s comforting to think that this loneliness / singularity may be a way to gain a deeper understanding of what we choose to take in during our hibernation – perhaps, an incubation period that promises some new blossom in the spring.

  2. Tara Lynch says:

    Brandi-lea I love how you mentioned the deepening of our understanding as to what we choose to take with us during the winter hibernation period. Perhaps it’s my introverted tendencies, but I love the wintertime. It’s kind of like being in on a train- you slow down for the duration of the trip, and really check in with yourself in a way that normally isn’t given enough time in this busy lifestyle. Also, the “bone structure of the landscape” reminds me of an idea one of my dance teachers shared with us: that the Earth isn’t a solid, unmoving mass and the foundation that we try to find stability on is always moving. Buildings shift, Earth shifts. That we allow ourselves to be supported by the “bone structure” beneath us but are sensitive enough to dance with the constant movement and shifts below is key.

  3. CallieRitter says:

    I remember studying Wyeth’s work in college with his classic (run over the hill) “Winter 1940.” I didn’t think of it at all as beautiful, but the more I look at Wyeth’s paintings, the more I understand them. There is something familiar…I think we all have been there…in those moments that are hard to point to in words. – I really enjoy the choice for this post.

    …Me too, I don’t enjoy the shrugged shoulders; the hunkering to the insides of myself; the lack of freedom I feel with layered clothing… I remember my mother (who has an artist’s eye) telling me about her love for the winter landscape. She said there is so much variance in the desaturation, although it does take a sort of ‘seasoning’ to see the attractiveness in something that is not bold or on first impression appealing.

    Beauty (to me) isn’t clean, it’s American Beauty’s “dead bird” or “plastic bag”, it’s in the eye of the beholder, often times bittersweet, but irrevocably REAL.

  4. katherinegmoore says:

    When I was younger I used to love this time of year. The drama of the change in seasons appealed to me. I loved the leaves blowing around, revealing the branches underneath, and nothing was more exciting than the first snow. Growing up in rural Indiana, I was accustomed to wide, open views of de-saturated color and “nothingness” at this time of year, but thinking back on those experiences now, I have the sense that that emptiness allowed more room for imagination. Somehow, the thrill of nature and the unknown was increased with the sparse landscape.

    When I was little, I was also obsessed with Little House on the Prairie and wanted nothing more than to go back in time and become a pioneer woman in the open wilderness. Wythe’s work reminds me of those feelings as I had then. I delighted in stories of cold winters, families huddled together for warmth and comfort, telling each other stories to survive boredom and fear and hunger. Somehow the barren landscape and rough weather patterns offered more fodder for rich plotlines and moral lessons. Death seemed present in these stories but comforting at the same time. The change in seasons allowed me to at least pretend that I was becoming a stronger, more independent, more resourceful person who could have survived alone on the prairie in another life. I was quite the romantic as a child 🙂

    As I get older I find that I love spring and summer more and more and find the colder months to be a struggle. I thrive in the warmth and the color. Perhaps it’s just that I’m missing my rural roots, but this time of year just doesn’t seem as magical in an adult in an urban environment. As such, I found this post and everyone’s comments today very timely and wonderful for reflection as I head home for the Thanksgiving holiday this week. Happy Turkey Day!

  5. katherinegmoore says:


  6. Jonathan Matthews says:

    Delicacy is definitely my word for this time I’ve had off. I feel not only the bone structure of the landscape becomes apparent, but the bone structure of my relationships with those I no longer see on a daily basis as well. They might become apparent through the fortunate realization of an unfortunate negligence, like being able to see ribs of a hungry animal, or simply through the transparency that the season encourages. It’s so fitting that the most emotionally vulnerable holidays are all packed in this time. While I definitely use my winter for a kind of hibernation, at the same time, the passing of these days of togetherness makes winter more like an active arena for me, where I must put the insights I gain from my hibernation into practice at the very same time I discover them, without the kind of preparation time one might have in summer. Often times I find these relationship skeletons to have a few loose ligaments, or even a stress fracture or two, but, again, this juxtaposition of vulnerability and contemplation is so strangely wonderful in that it allows more opportunities for finding clarity in what might need some extra healing…

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  1. […] year I offered the idea of walking in the boots of one of my favorite artists. It has greatly helped me navigate the altered light and landscape.  An additional image that came […]

  2. […] year I offered the idea of walking in the boots of one of my favorite artists. It has greatly helped me navigate the altered light and landscape.  An additional image that came […]

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