Jamie Wyeth (born 1946) Declaration of Independence 40 x 30 1/4in (Painted in 2002.)

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Lot 72W
Jamie Wyeth
(born 1946)
Declaration of Independence 40 x 30 1/4in

Sold for US$ 307,500 inc. premium

American Art

24 May 2017, 10:00 EDT

New York

Jamie Wyeth (born 1946)
Declaration of Independence
signed 'J. Wyeth' (lower left)
oil on canvas
40 x 30 1/4in
Painted in 2002.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The artist.
    with Frank E. Fowler, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.
    Private collection, acquired from the above.
    Gift to the present owner, 2006.

    This work has been recorded in the database of the artist's work being compiled by the Wyeth Center at the William A. Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine.

    In the mid-1970s, likely in response to the Bicentennial year, Jamie Wyeth finished several portraits of founding father Thomas Jefferson. This group of works, which appear to support historical representations of Jefferson, in a high collar gazing nobly beyond the viewer, embody the type of character studies most often associated with the artist's father, Andrew Wyeth.

    The subject lot, Declaration of Independence, is a later work of the same theme which takes a far more narrative approach to this important and patriotic subject. In this composition, Jamie appears to be deliberately channeling his grandfather, N.C. Wyeth, who tackled the same subject for a 1940 calendar illustration titled America in the Making. While this influence is certainly indisputable, Declaration of Independence claims an overtly modern perspective. By animating his canvas at a dramatic angle and a focus on the mass of crumpled drafts in the foreground bathed in candlelight, Jamie creates a veritable bonfire before the author. The hood of the clock eerily emerges from the background almost disembodied from its trunk. Its glass face also reflects the candle's glow entirely obscuring the clock's dial. The figure of Jefferson with his tussled hair, surrounded by his earlier efforts, appears more in a quandary of second thoughts than contemplative.

    Based on historical knowledge, Jamie appears to have quite accurately captured the labor of this momentous task. It is widely understood that when Thomas Jefferson was asked to draft the Declaration of Independence on June 11, 1776, he was the youngest member of the Continental Congress and not known for his oratory. He spent the better part of three weeks independently revising and editing a number of drafts to the document, although he was part of a committee of five that included John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Jefferson completed his draft of the Declaration on June 28, 1776 and it was submitted to the Congress who edited about a quarter of it. Famously signed on the 4th of July, the document was announced to the public on the July 8, 1776.
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