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A ‘Big Room’ to Remember

Big Room

Andrew Wyeth is famed for paintings of stark sentiment and thematic reminiscence. ‘Big Room’ is no exception. Born in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and confined to his house as a child due to illness, Wyeth developed an appreciation for home and an attachment to nostalgia. He cherished the few people he was exposed to, and placed considerable importance on relationships.

Newell Convers Wyeth
One of Wyeth’s most significant relationships and life influences was his father, Newell Convers Wyeth, otherwise known as N.C., a renowned illustrator and painter. Andrew spent hours just watching his father at work, and learned his technique to such an intimate level that, upon his father’s death, was able to complete a series of N.C.’s murals.

Chadds Ford
Andrew’s family spent their winters at Chadds Ford, and when Christmas came around, his father would dress up as Santa Claus, or ‘Old Kriss’ as they liked to call him, climb onto the roof while the children were in bed and start stomping, ringing bells and barking orders at imaginary reindeer. N.C would then lower himself into the chimney, drop down into the family room, known as the ‘Big Room’, and would hand out presents. Andrew remembers being filled with such a mixture of excitement and fear at the noisy arrival of Old Kriss that, at one time, he wet his pants.

The painting of ‘Big Room’ by Andrew Wyeth was inspired by this story which carries with it much nostalgia and fond memories of the bond the artist had with his father. The ultimate significance of the fireplace, which is placed centre stage in the composition, is not only related to his father as Santa Claus, but also associated with the calm and comfort that a warm fire can bring to a sick child.

Today the actual Chadd’s Ford Wyeth family living room has been restored and still retains the original features depicted in the painting. The oriental rugs, wooden flooring, and piano, as well as the seats, are arranged around the soul of the fireplace as it was long ago, with the very same windows looking out on the Brandywine Valley.

A watercolour scene painted in the subdued brown tones that are typical of Andrew Wyeth’s winter work, ‘Big Room’ undoubtedly emphasizes the artist’s view on the creation of art – it is about doing it “just on the line”.

 

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