an historic site at the Farnsworth Art Museum
The Olson House is the subject of numerous works of art by Andrew Wyeth, including his 1948 painting Christina’s World, now owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wyeth’s series of drawings, watercolors and tempera paintings featuring Christina Olson, her brother Alvaro and the house itself, occupied Wyeth from 1939 through 1968.
On the day they met in the summer of 1939, seventeen-year-old Betsy James, who would later marry Andrew Wyeth, introduced him to Christina and Alvaro Olson. A summer neighbor and friend of the Olsons, Ms. James saw the Olson House for the first time at the age of ten. She later described it as “looming up like a weathered ship stranded on a hilltop.” Betsy and Andrew married ten months later. Over the next three decades, a growing friendship developed between the artist and the Olsons. Wyeth was allowed to wander through the house as he pleased, and used an upstairs room as a studio.
Wyeth expressively documented life on the isolated, saltwater farm in many of his works. He said, “In the portraits of that house, the windows are eyes or pieces of the soul almost. To me, each window is a different part of Christina’s life.” For him, Christina and the Olson House were symbols of New England and Maine. He once remarked, “I just couldn’t stay away from there. I did other pictures while I knew them but I’d always seem to gravitate back to the house. … It was Maine.”
The gift of the site to the Farnsworth Art Museum by John and Lee Adams Sculley in 1991 is especially appropriate because of the museum’s long relationship with Andrew Wyeth. In 1944, the Farnsworth bought six works by the young artist, and in 1951 mounted a major exhibition of his work. The Farnsworth has now more than twenty-five works by Andrew Wyeth as well as examples by other artist-members of the family.
An eerie photo of our hotel.