The above painting is named Christina’s World and it was painted by Andrew Wyeth in 1948. It is one of my favorite paintings ever but one that I say in somewhat shame. Not because it’s not great art, because it is, but because once you learn who Christina was it’s hard to look at it without a bad taste in your mouth.
So first thing before getting into the story, quickly you can find the painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. On the day that I went and snapped the above picture, it was almost but ignored by the throngs of people. You had a line 30 deep to see The Starry Night by Van Gogh, an amazing painting that is hanging on my wall. But there was no such line for Christina. Maybe the painting isn’t as famous because of the backstory? No I doubt few even know about who Christina was and why she was laying on the ground.
So who was she? Her name was Anna Christina Olson. And the reason why she is the ground is because we believe she suffered from Charcot-Marie Tooth Disease. The disease causes weakness in lower leg muscles which left her handicapped from the wrist down. She’s on the ground because that’s how she got around. Is that make you feel bad? Well it gets worse. Wyeth used his wife as the model for the head and upper body, his wife was much younger then Olson and so in better beauty. Wyeth used Christina’s disability for the painting but only couldn’t be bothered to use all of her.
When I first saw this painting in my youth I thought that the woman was seeming to reach out to a home that was far away. Maybe a past that was out of reach. As someone who has spent a lifetime of looking for a home, this painting struck a note with me.
Then I found out the backstory and that love wasn’t as strong. the story wasn’t of Christina but a story that was placed on her. She wasn’t reaching out to a home but just living her life now. Maybe that’s a strong message but it’s not the world presented to us.
I still love this painting but yeah these is a bit in shame in that love, but isn’t that a part of life and love.