Christina’s World is an iconic mid-century painting by Andrew Wyeth. In the foreground a slender and attractive woman lies in a barren field some distance from a house on a hill. She is Christina Olson and she was struck by polio when she was younger. That disease was prevalent in rural America during former half of the 20th Century. The landscape in this painting was supplied by rural Maine. Undaunted by muscular paralysis as a result of that disease, Ms Olson moved about with the only means at her disposal: her arms.
Wyeth owned a vacation home in Maine and he was fond of Ms. Olson. He was inspired to paint Christina’s World when he saw her crawling through a nearby field. He was familiar with both her and her brother – he painted both over the years. For this painting, Wyeth’s wife posed for the torso.
The house in the distance is on the Olson farm in Cushing, Maine. It is open to the public and the tour offers a fascinating depiction of the real world of Christina and her family. On June 30, 2011, the house was named a National Historic Landmark. This summer and fall, there is a rare opportunity to view 50 Wyeths at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockport, Maine.