At this stage in our travels I plead, ‘Enough! No more museums or art galleries, please!’
Yes, Seattle, capital city of Washington State is saturation point – remember, this our third week in the US and the artistic delights of New York and Washington DC beckon from a safe distant.
Still, there is much to see in this city with its sense of youthfulness – vibrant, fun and innovative. The average group walking the city malls seems to be 20-30 year olds. They dress casually, clutching small computers, mobile phones and plugged into iPods, confident in their right to be where they are at this time – after all, this is where the Google Empire lives, Intel thrives and where Starbucks launched its attack on the world.
And good luck to them – they live in a beautiful city on an immense waterway with hundreds of islands and sparkling blue waters; and within cooee of the fantastic and historic Arcadia National Park. Although, being a large American city there are many people still begging on the streets.
Looming over the city (because of its height rather than its distance) is the highest volcano in America, the awe-inspiring, snow-capped peak of Mt Rainier. It too is active. (Note: knowing Mt Saint Helens fate and Mt Rainier’s close proximity to this city of over 600,000 people, do they ever think about it?)
This city spawned some of music’s greats, like Quincey Jones and Jimmy Hendrix. Who can say Seattle with putting the Sleepless in it? And let’s not forget Grey’s Anatomy.
So we do all the usual tourist stuff down at the Fishermen’s Market and are heading back when Ross spies a sign Seattle Art Museum – Want to go in there? he says. I groan at his attempt at humour.
Then I see the small print. SPECIAL EXHIBITION … Andrew Wyeth: Remembrance, and my heart races. This is too good to be true, but it is. Wyeth has been one of my very favourite artists for over 25 years.
Many people of my vintage from all over the globe had a print of his ‘Christina’s World‘ on their bedroom wall back in the 70s. He is one of America’s favourite painters because of the accessibility of his work – realist, precise, beautifully executed dry-brush watercolours, gouaches and egg tempera of his favourite subjects – the land and people around him, always set in his hometown of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and his summer home in Maine. He was also derided by many critics – not that it seemed to make much difference to him.
The Remembrance exhibition at Seattle Art Museum is only a small collection loaned by individuals. They focus on several of the 247 studies Wyeth painted over many years of his neighbour, Prussian-born Helga Testorf.
She had never modelled before, but quickly became comfortable with the long periods of posing, during which she was observed and painted in intimate detail.
Wyeth painted all these works without the knowledge of his wife, Betsy or Helga’s husband. In fact, he kept painting other works at the same time so as not to arouse his wife’s suspicions. When the Helga paintings were finally exposed to the art world, the proverbial hit the fan about the goings-on in Wyeth’s studio.
One thing can’t be denied: they are works of extraordinary beauty and depth.
We stay to listen to the curator’s talk about Wyeth and the Helga paintings – and have to reach the conclusion: one can love the man’s ability, but is artistic genius an excuse to be totally self-absorbed?
PS.. Guess what I just saw in New York’s Museum of Modern Art? Yes, Christina’s World. It’s even more beautiful in real life.