Archive for andrew Wyeth

The Olson House in Cushing Maine

Posted in garden to visit, Maine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2018 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

 Andrew Wyeth’s iconic and enigmatic painting Christina’s World

Every year I attend a garden tour in Maine, and this year it was the Georges River Land Trust’s 27th annual “Gardens in the Watershed Tour“, featuring six gardens in Rockland, Owls Head, and South Thomaston.  Arriving in the area the day before the tour, I decided to visit the Olson House in Cushing, Maine, a National Historic Landmark and the house depicted in Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World above.  Although what follows does not profile a garden, I hope that you will enjoy seeing this amazing place.

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The Olson house and barn look very much the same as they were depicted by Wyeth in 1948.

Although I had considered visiting this remote spot many times, I was inspired to finally make the trip after reading A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (Harper Collins 2017).  Combining historical facts with fiction, Kline’s novel details the life of Anna Christina Olson, the woman in Wyeth’s mysterious painting.  I found the novel gripping and was amazed by the author’s ability to portray, from Christina’s point of view, her life of poverty, debilitating illness, and almost complete isolation .  For more information on A Piece of the World, read the 2017 New York Times book review by clicking here.

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The Olson House is in an area of Maine that is still quite remote and undeveloped.  The view from the house towards Maple Juice Cove probably looked much the same during Christina Olson’s lifetime.

Christiana Olson, who lived in the Olson House with her brother Alvaro until she died in 1968, was born there in 1893 and contracted a debilitating and undiagnosed illness early in her life that eventually left her unable to walk. Into this bleak existence, which is excruciatingly well-portrayed from Christina’s perspective in the book, came Andrew Wyeth in 1939.  He befriended Christina and her brother and created almost 300 paintings of the house, both inside and out, as well as its inhabitants over the course of Christina’s lifetime.  Wyeth said of the house:

I just couldn’t stay away from there. I did other pictures while I knew them but I’d always seem to gravitate back to the house. … It was Maine.

A New York Times travel piece, describing a visit to the Olson House, calls it Wyeth’s Giverny.  To read the article, “A Stroll Through Wyeth’s Giverny”, click here.

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The little garden in the middle right of the photo contains the only cultivated space on the property.

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Though the garden is small, it is certainly compelling when surrounded by the bleak presence of the house.

The Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine, acquired the Olson House in 1991.  Sometime after the death of Alvaro and Christina Olson in 1967 and 1968, the house was cleared of almost all its contents, so the inside of the house is as desolate as the outside.  However, I highly recommend a guided tour as our wonderful guide brought the history of the house, as well as all its inhabitants since it was built in the late 1700s, alive for us.  After the tour we were free to wander the house where photos of many of Wyeth’s paintings are displayed in the rooms where they were painted.

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While we waited for the tour to begin, we walked down this path across the street from the house to the tiny graveyard where Christina Olson and Andrew Wyeth are buried.

.This stone marks the graves of both Christina and Alvaro Olson.

.This simple gravestone says Andrew Wyeth 1917 to 2009.

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The Olson house is open Wednesdays through Sundays noon to 5 pm from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus  Day.   Tours are on the hour with the last tour at 4 pm.  For more information, click here.

After your visit to remote Cushing, you can re-enter the bustle of the 21st century in the dynamic, art-filled town of Rockland and eat at two of my favorite restaurants, Primo and Cafe Miranda, pictured below from a 2015 visit.

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Cafe Miranda, 15 Oak Street, Rockland, Maine, 207-594-2034, reservations recommended, extensive menu, the coconut curry mussels are the best I have ever had, but everything is delicious!

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Primo, 2 Main Street, Rockland, Maine, 207-596-0770, make reservations months ahead (ask for Ed as your server), they grow most of their ingredients on site, a lifetime dining experience!

 

Carolyn

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