Throughout his six-decade-long career, Andrew Wyeth painted lonely rural landscapes, closely observed portraits, and crisp interior still lifes in a characteristically realistic and finely detailed style. His landscapes are almost entirely of locations in the Chadds Ford and Brandywine area of Pennsylvania and in coastal Maine, the places where he grew up and lived all his life. Wyeth's close friends and neighbors, and their homes, were frequently the subjects of his intensely personal paintings. The Olsons—Christina Olson in particular, shown in his most famous painting, Christina's World, 1948 (The Museum of Modern Art, New York)—and their farm were repeatedly depicted by the artist. Wyeth's interior scenes and architectural views often focus on windows and doorways, and Wind from the Sea is one of the artist's earliest paintings of a window. It is a scene from a room on the top floor of the Olson house in Maine, looking over the surrounding landscape.
Wind from the Sea, painted a year before Christina's World, captures a moment on a hot summer day when Wyeth opened the seldom used window in an attic room. The picture is eerily alive with movement as the wind blows the curtains into the room. The tattered, transparent fabric is light and airy, with small embroidered birds along the edges that seem ready to dart into the house. In contrast, the sun-bleached wooden window sill looks sturdy and solid. The interior of the room is dim, while the landscape beyond the open window is stark and bright. The tree-lined view includes no figures, but as in so many other works by Wyeth, a strong sense of their presence is evident. Two well-worn tire tracks running across the dirt lead the viewer's eye toward the sea in the distance. The close vantage point and the tightly cropped window frame at the edge of the painting create the illusion that the viewer is actually looking out a window.
Wind from the Sea is an iconic example of Wyeth's landscapes, as well as one of the earliest examples of his use of windows and his often unique choice of vantage point. Three preparatory studies for the painting accompanied the gift. All four works were bequeathed to the Gallery by Charles H. Morgan. Wind from the Sea is the second painting by Wyeth to enter the National Gallery's collection; Snow Flurries, a 1953 tempera painting, was given in 1977.