THOMASTON, Maine — It’s not every day that you find an original painting by Andrew Wyeth in a relative’s house that you’re helping clean out.
But if your aunt was Christina Olson — depicted by Wyeth in his iconic painting “Christina’s World” — your odds improve.
That’s how John Olson Sr. came in possession of a 1942 mixed media painting of the Olson House in Cushing by Andrew Wyeth that the painter gave to Christina six years before the artist finished “Christina’s World,” according to Kaja Veilleux, founder of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries.
The painting is one of three works by Andrew Wyeth going up for sale at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries’ summer auction this weekend. A painting by Wyeth’s son, Jamie Wyeth, will also be up for auction.
The three generations of Wyeth artists, beginning with Andrew’s father, illustrator N.C. Wyeth, are synonymous with Maine art. Since the 1800s, the men have captured Maine’s rugged and rural landscapes and people, creating strong ties to coastal Knox County.
One of Andrew Wyeth’s greatest sources of inspiration in Maine was the Olson House, a 1700s farmhouse in Cushing. He painted more than 300 works of the house and its inhabitant, Christina Olson, who lived there with her brother, Alvaro.
Andrew Wyeth had a studio in the farmhouse and is buried at a cemetery on the grounds of the house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and owned by the Farnsworth Art Museum.
In 1968, shortly after Christina Olson died, John Olson Sr. and his wife visited the house. His wife found the 1942 painting on the floor of Alvaro’s bedroom, according to an interview with John Olson Sr. on the auction house’s website.
In the bottom right-hand corner of the painting is a faded note that reads, “To Christina and Alvaro, from Betsy and Andy.”
Olson asked his father, who was cleaning the house, if he and his wife could have the painting, and his father said, “Sure.”
For the safety of the painting, Olson has stored the painting in a bank vault in Thomaston, and most recently at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland.
Veilleux said that Olson, now 97 years old, is selling the item so it can find a new and safe home. The item is appraised at $75,000 to $125,000, but Veilleux said he anticipates that the Wyeth pieces will sell for more than its appraised value.
Another smaller rendition of the Olson House by Andrew Wyeth is up for auction this weekend, along with a large painting by Wyeth titled, “Spruce Timber.”
In that painting, two men clearing out trees in Cushing are depicted in a dark pine grove. Andrew Wyeth painted “Spruce Timber” while the men were cutting trees used to building the Wyeth home in Cushing, according to the weekend’s auction catalogue.
Veilleux said Thomaston Place Auction Galleries has sold numerous Andrew Wyeth artworks in the past, though the oil painting, “Fog,” by Jamie Wyeth is the first work they’ve had from the youngest Wyeth painter.
The Wyeth works will be up for auction Sunday. Veilleux said 1,106 pieces — ranging from furniture to fine jewelery to artwork — will be for sale this weekend.
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