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Signed 'J. WYETH' bottom left, oil on board
36 3/4 x 30 1/2 in. (93.3 x 77.5cm)
Executed in 1997.
Acquired directly from the above in 1997.
Private Collection, Maine.
Acquired directly from the above through Adelson Galleries, New York, New York.
Private Collection, New Hampshire.
"Wondrous Strange: The Wyeth Tradition: Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, James Wyeth," Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine, June 21-November 8, 1998; and Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware, December 10, 1998-February 21, 1999.
"Gulls, Ravens, and a Vulture: The Ornithological Paintings of James Wyeth," Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine, June 26-October 10, 2005.
(Possibly) "Jamie Wyeth: Unsettled," Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, January 27, 2024 - May 05, 2024.
Stephen Bruni et. al., Wondrous Strange: The Wyeth Tradition: Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, James Wyeth, an exhibition catalogue, Little Brown & Co., Boston, 1998.
James Wyeth, Bernd Heinrich and Victoria K. Woodhull, Gulls, Ravens, and a Vulture: The Ornithological Paintings of James Wyeth, an exhibition catalogue, Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center, Rockland, 2005, p. 145 (illustrated).
Executed in 1997, the present work is the last painting from a series of works by the artist that centers on the distinctive wildlife of coastal Maine, with notable portraits of crabs, fish and birds (see for example Ice Storm Maine, from the Rockefeller collection sold at Christie's on May 8, 2018, lot 425). As Christopher Crosman described it in 2005, "Saltwater Ice puts us at bird's-eye level on a precarious ice floe with not a trace of land and a breaking wave threatening to wash over the temporary refuge." Stylistically, while the hyper-realism of the birds recalls Andrew Wyeth's precise scientific observations, the shining emeralld-green of the tormented see in the background certainly hints at N.C. Wyeth's jewel-like tones, thus making the piece an exemplary Wyeth creation. Gulls and especially ravens have always been a fixture in Jamie Wyeth's oeuvre; and it is not hard to guess why as the ominous birds channel much of the eeriness, sometimes horror associated with gothic tales and mysterious stories Wyeth is so enamored with. Here, Wyeth sets the spectator close to the two black ravens, and willingly make us feel ill at ease. The dizziness comes from the proximity to the raptors, and their potential threat, but also from the precocity of our own situation, standing on a floating block of ice, victim to waves, wind and cold. As Crosman summarizes, we are left with "the uncomfortable realization that birds, though not mere human beings, can simply fly away in the face of disaster." In doing so, Wyeth reminds us that ravens are the only true, original inhabitants of Maine and that when walking on the mystical land, the Wyeth-adopted country, one must always be on the alert…
Please note the present Lot has been requested for inclusion in the Brandywine River Museum of Art's forthcoming 2024 exhibition, "Jamie Wyeth: Unsettled."
Frame: 40 1/2 x 34 1/4 x 2 in.
In excellent original condition with no sign of inpainting as seen under UV light. We notice some fluorescing pigments on the main raven at front: these are due to the grey pigments, and not a sign of restoration.
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