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Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In

May 4 – November 30, 2014
West Building, Main Floor, Northeast Galleries

Image: Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea, 1947, tempera on hardboard, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Charles H. Morgan, © Andrew Wyeth

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

 In the spring of 2009 the National Gallery of Art was given one of Andrew Wyeth’s most famous paintings, Wind from the Sea (1947). Completed early in the artist’s career, the painting captured the moment when an ocean breeze flowing through an open window gently lifted tattered curtains. During the course of the next sixty years, Wyeth returned repeatedly to the subject of windows, producing more than three hundred works on this theme. Spare and elegant, these paintings are free of the narrative element associated with the artist’s better-known figural compositions. The abstract qualities of his work are therefore more readily apparent, and Wyeth emerges as an artist deeply concerned with the visual complexities posed by the transparency, symbolism, and geometric structure of windows.

Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In gathers together — for the first time — a
 select group of Wyeth’s images of windows.
 Included in the exhibition are watercolor 
studies quickly executed to capture a momentary impression as well as tempera paintings created over an extended period of distillation and simplification. The exhibition begins with Wind from the Sea and proceeds to galleries of images that reflect his extended study of windows at other sites of particular interest, including the Olson house in Maine, the Kuerner farm in Pennsylvania, and his own Brandywine studio.

Once heralded for his virtuoso draughtmanship and poetic sensibility, Wyeth was later regarded by critics as an isolated, conservative figure out of step with his age. Believing that his work was misunderstood, he repeatedly described himself as an abstract painter and asserted that critics judged only the surface realism of his paintings, overlooking their underlying structure.

After Andrew Wyeth died in January 2009, a reevaluation of his work began almost immediately. It is now apparent that Wyeth was, in fact, an artist as concerned with formal abstraction and existential darkness as were his contemporaries. He was a multifaceted artist who employed abstract pictorial devices — including the window grid — to help distill compositions to their core emotion: “You can have the technique and paint the object,” he said, but “it’s what’s inside you, the way you translate the object — and that’s pure emotion. I think most people get to my work through the backdoor. They’re attracted by the realism and sense the emotion and the abstraction — and eventually, I hope, they get their own powerful emotion.”

The exhibition, organized by the National Gallery of Art, will be seen only in Washington.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Sponsor: The exhibition is made possible by Altria Group.

It is also supported by The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

Additional funding is provided by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art.


Catalog: Andrew Wyeth: A Spoken Self-Portrait. Selected and arranged by Richard Meryman. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2013.

Wyeth, Andrew
American, 1917 - 2009
Andrew Wyeth: Rebel
Audio, Released: November 4, 2014, (64:04 minutes)
Andrew Wyeth at the Movies: The Story of an Obsession
Audio, Released: July 8, 2014, (67:18 minutes)
Andrew Wyeth: A Spoken Self-Portrait
Audio, Released: June 17, 2014, (46:06 minutes)
Introduction to the Exhibition: Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In
Audio, Released: May 13, 2014, (53:54 minutes)
Press Event: "Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In"
Audio, Released: April 29, 2014, (111 minutes)