Back Entry, 1971 signed 'Andrew Wyeth' (lower right) watercolor on paper 30 x 22in
PROVENANCE: The artist with Frank E. Fowler, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee Private collection, Tennessee, acquired from the above, 1972 By descent to the present owner
This watercolor will be included in Betsy James Wyeth's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.
Back Entry, of 1971, contains many of the hallmarks of Andrew Wyeth's most celebrated works. Executed in watercolor, the present work is a highly finished example of Wyeth's understanding of this mediumdepicting a pumpkin sitting in the doorway of the Ericksons' shed in Cushing, Maine.
Like many works from Wyeth's oeuvre, Back Entry is derived from the artist's local and personal community. Wyeth's relationship with the Ericksons deepened immensely in 1968 after the death of Christina Olson, the infamous subject from Wyeth's masterwork, Christina's World, 1948, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and many of his early works. "On his way to the funeral of Christina Olson in Maine, he happened to drive by the house of the Finn, George Erickson, leading him to think about Erickson's young daughter, Siri, who would become the model of some of Wyeth's best nudes of the 1970s." (Thomas Hoving, Andrew Wyeth Autobiography, 1995, pp. 11-12) Siri, her father George and their farm and home would become deeply personal subject matter for Wyeth in the early 1970s. He called them "continuations of Olsons." (see Andrew Wyeth Autobiography, 1995, p. 86)
In Back Entry, Wyeth creates dramatic light effects by exaggerating the dark shadows within the work and allowing only a small amount of gentle, yet vivacious light from the open door. The viewer's perspective allows for only one thin sliver of viewable landscape, yet the washes Wyeth used for this narrow area are rich and purposeful. From the beginning, Wyeth's interest in light and atmosphere often brought him outside into nature to paint. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the simple subject of the pumpkin allowed Wyeth the freedom to play with these influences of light and dark.
The shed depicted in the present work is also in the background of Wyeth's watercolor Pumpkins, 1969, Private Collection. In reference to this work Wyeth recalls, "I did this at Erickson's house, where I painted Siri. He grew a lot of pumpkins. I painted a few pictures of pumpkins. But after I saw all of the pumpkins that other people did, I stopped painting them. That ruined it for me." (Andrew Wyeth Autobiography, p. 79) Perhaps the inspiration of pumpkins was not as simple as Wyeth recalls. It seems logical to presume that the stimulus could have also been his father, illustrator N.C. Wyeth, who was known for "orchestrating annual rituals" on holidays. N.C. would use pumpkins, lanterns and field corn to decorate his studio during Halloweensetting the scene with dark lighting, a fire and favors for the children. (see Wanda M. Corn, The Art of Andrew Wyeth, 1973, p. 121) Wyeth himself has also referenced Halloween and pumpkins in a 1973 interview: "You look at my picturesChristina's World, The Patriot, Miss Olsonthere's witchcraft and hidden meaning there. Halloween and all that is strangely tied into them. For me, the paintings have that eerie feeling of goblins and witches out riding on broomsticksdamp rotting leaves and moisturesmell of make-upas a child, the smell inside of a pumpkin when a candle is litthe feel of your face under a mask walking down a road in the moonlight. I love all of that, because I don't exist anymore." (as quoted in The Art of Andrew Wyeth, 1973, p. 55)