Dead of Winter by Andrew Wyeth
"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape, the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show," Andrew Wyeth said, about why so few of his landscapes are summer or spring scenes. He spent the winter months in Chadds Ford, in southern Pennsylvania, an area of moderate winter temperatures and snow, just enough snow to cover the ground but not enough to cover everything, as the painting shows.
Dead of winter is a scene that any of us who have tramped around fields or the outskirts of towns in the winter might see. It is a commonplace scene that brings to mind nothing of note in the passing of it. Yet, such is the power of art that Wyeth nearly takes our breath away with the detailed beauty of this painting--the graceful and fragile grasses on the lower left, the scraggy bark of the tree, the green on its branches, the sturdy stalks of grasses and weeds.
Here we see the Wyeth method at work, whose purpose was not to capture an objective reality but to capture his own excitement and love of the object he was painting. I don't know the history of this particular painting in pre-studies, but Wyeth rarely painted only what he saw or did so only in fast, on-the-scene watercolors. This painting displays lavish attention to detail painted in the studio.
The tree stands isolated from the pine grove on the hill behind it. And as Wyeth references, we know that this scene--captured on canvas--does not last forever in nature; soon the snow will melt, the ground will loosen up, and the buried plants will start to stir.
Dead of Winter is a nature scene, but its composition and tender rendering stir up our soul. We can see ourselves in it, not as walking next to it but our life on an emotional continuum with it.
Andrew Wyeth--great painter, great poet.