Me and My Vulture signed 'J. WYETH' (lower right) oil on panel 28 x 31in (71.1 x 78.8cm) Painted in 1994 and 2005.
PROVENANCE: The artist. Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2005.
EXHIBITED: Rockland, Maine, Farnsworth Art Museum, Gulls, Ravens and a Vulture: The Ornithological Paintings of James Wyeth, June 26-October 10, 2005.
LITERATURE: C. Crosman, B. Heinrich, R.H. Podolsky, V.K. Woodhull, Gulls, Ravens and a Vulture: The Ornithological Paintings of James Wyeth, exhibition catalogue, Rockland, Maine, 2005, p. 98, frontispiece illustration.
This work is included in the database of the artist's work being compiled by the Wyeth Center at the William A. Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine.
Jamie Wyeth's fascination with birds surfaced as a significant subject in his works as early as the 1960s and has continued to penetrate his oeuvre for nearly 50 years. Wyeth, who has a keen ability to render figures in their natural surroundings while also conveying their unique expression and individuality, is also credited for providing this treatment to his winged subjects. Wyeth is known to have a special relationship with the birds he paints, choosing his subjects from those around the barnyard at his home in Pennsylvania and from his secluded home off the coast of Maine.
Me and My Vulture, the present work, was painted in 1994 and then reworked in 2005. The painting likely depicts a vulture that the artist notoriously nurtured from its nestling state into adulthood around 1991. In the relevant 2005 exhibition catalogue, Chris Crosman states: 'Like Gulls and Ravens, Vultures are among nature's survivors that have adapted to and even thrive on their proximity to man...' (C. Crosman, Gulls, Ravens and a Vulture: The Ornithological Paintings of James Wyeth, 2005, p. 16.) All too true in this instance, as the artist depicted the vulture as perched on what is presumably the artist and caretaker's arm with wings spread ready to embark on his next journey. The hand and spread fingers of the figure mimic the spread wings and feathers of the vulture, representing their kinship and the symbiotic nature of their relationship.
Although not the most obvious of subjects for a contemporary artist, Jamie continued to paint a variety of ornithological works into the 21st century including depictions of ravens, gulls, geese, crows and farmyard birds. A masterwork among Jamie Wyeth's ornithological paintings, Me and My Vulture, stands alone as a testament to his understanding of ornithology and his intimate sensitivity to the subject.