SIRI ERICKSON AND HER FAMILY:
"A BURST OF LIFE" FOR ANDREW WYETH
(November 2003, #038)
In the fall of 1967, Andrew Wyeth met 13-year-old Siri Erickson at her home in Cushing, Maine. Intrigued by the young girl of Finnish decent, Wyeth completed a brief drawing of her before he left for Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, for the winter. That January, Christina Olson, Wyeth's friend and model in Cushing for nearly 30 years, passed away, and the artist felt the loss keenly.
As soon as he returned to Maine in the spring of 1968, Wyeth asked Siri to pose again. For the next ten summers, the artist's fascination with Siri and her family lead him to explore the local Finnish community, resulting in paintings of other Finnish neighbors and the Finnish Church in South Thomaston.
Beginning mid December and continuing through April 11, 2004, the Brandywine River Museum presents Ericksons by Andrew Wyeth, an exhibition featuring approximately 20 paintings and drawings of Siri and her family.
The artist stated in a 1977 article in Horizon magazine, "To me, these pictures of the young Siri are continuations of the Olsons, and at the same time they are sharp counteractions to the portraits of Christina, which symbolize the deterioration and the dwindling of something. In a way this was not a figure, but a burst of life."
The paintings and drawings in the exhibition, many of which are from the Brandywine River Museum's collection, mark a turning point in Wyeth's work. Although Wyeth would later garner a great deal of press surrounding his series of nudes of his Chadds Ford model Helga Testorf, The Sauna (1968) of Siri was actually the artist's first nude in tempera.
Wyeth's nudes of Siri have a timeless quality, featuring the youthful figure in primarily outdoor settings. He was inspired not only by her youth, but also by the legends of her Finnish ancestors. Of The Virgin (1970) Wyeth commented, "I really like the painting because it has a kind of mythical quality. I even thought of her connection with the early Finnish legend about an elk and a beautiful girl and the combination of the two. I never consider it a nude painting. I consider it more than that."
Ericksons by Andrew Wyeth features paintings of a single family, but it honors the entire community of Finnish-Americans in mid-coast Maine and shows how the artist approaches his subjects from drawings to final paintings.
Exhibiting American art in a restored 19th-century grist mill, the Brandywine River Museum is internationally known for its unparalleled collection of works by three generations of Wyeths and its fine collection of American illustration, still life and landscape painting. Located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the museum is open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except Christmas Day. Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for seniors ages 65 and over, students with I.D., and children ages 6 to 12; and free for children under six and Brandywine Conservancy members. For more information, please call 610-388-2700.
Press photography is available upon request.
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