Overshadowed by postwar abstractionists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, lacking the attention-grabbing presence of Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth (1917 – 2009) remains, in spite of all that, one of the most popular American artists. At just 31, his painting Christina’s World brought him fame and recognition, after being purchased by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. The painting became an instant hit, drawing crowds of visitors.
In the art world, to this day Wyeth remains highly controversial. Many have dismissed him for decades, considering him an amateur, a conservative obsessed with maintaining the status quo, stuck in a rural past. Obsolete. Others have appreciated his sensibility, arguing that there was a strong narrative and symbolism behind his works. As for Wyeth, he always thought of himself as more than a realist painter, as someone that would purposefully resort to metaphors and abstract concepts behind his mundane subjects and visible themes.
Frostbitten (1962) is an eerie still life that shows frostbitten apples in the daylight of an old, closed window. There is a poignant sense of abandonment in the painting, with the aging, unkempt wall, as if no one has been living there. Yet the intriguing presence of the apples indicates that’s not the case. The brightness of the glacial light freezes this moment in time, suggesting that the window, a motif that Wyeth used a lot throughout his career, can be seen as a reference to death, a passage into non-existence.