Monday, April 06, 2009

Michaelis on N.C. Wyeth

Rarely time for pleasure reading here. Most of my reading time is for manuscripts I'm cover-illustrating, or am going to be working on. One exception lately -- David Michaelis' 1998 biography, N.C. WYETH. Both pictures seen here are from Wyeth's classic TREASURE ISLAND work. Some words of wisdom here, courtesy of Michealis, regarding the power of N.C.'s pictures. This passage hit home...

Michaelis: "Wyeth used the medium. In literature, as in films, time advances, stories develop. No single paragraph or frame can tell the whole story. In painting, however, everything is visible all at once. The act of 'seeing everything' in one supreme moment has particular potence in childhood, when it feels possible to experience all of time in one moment. For a child, as for the onlooker of a painting, each single, present moment is the whole story. Past and future do not exist; and if emotions are keyed high enough, a single picture can be felt as an eternity."

Michaelis: "Wyeth's paintings for TREASURE ISLAND charge the viewer with the danger and excitement of seeing 'everything all at once.' We are not only seeing forbidden things but seeing without being seen. We are free to look in on terrible happenings, unnoticed by the objects of our gaze. This is universal fantasy: in picture after picture, we find ourselves in the middle of the action, living among menacing people, without ourselves being menaced. Guns are at hand, knives within reach; in Preparing for the Mutiny, one of the cutlasses on the table is held out to us, the hilt almost within our grasp. We are given the erotic power of omnipotent invisibility."


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