Wyeth Autobiography, Vol. 1
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Wyeth’s ‘Ides of March’
In many of Andrew
Wyeth’s artwork, there exists a clash, often a duality of images
and emotions. This sentiment is blatantly apparent in his piece titled
Ides of March.
Wyeth is a master
at blending the smooth and gentle with the harsh and jagged. With regard
to his paintings, he once stated that “...something waits beneath
it [the painting], the whole story doesn’t show.” This can
be said for the majority of his pieces. They seem to suggest that something
is lurking behind the scene, as if you have walked into a story having
missed the beginning.
With one glance at Ides of March, viewers can feel the tranquility of
the gentle imagery. To the right of the hearth lies a golden-haired dog.
Its body suggests that it is asleep, but a closer look reveals that the
dog’s eyes are indeed open and staring out at the world. It appears
to be trying to communicate a message, signalling the approach of things
to come. The shadows on the floor indicate that it is dusk, a time to
relax from the day’s activities. The whole seems to be a peaceful
scene, until the other half of the painting is taken into consideration.
In stark contrast with the calm, pale-hued dog is the dark hearth and
its metal riggings that hang ominously. The edges of the metal contraption
are jagged, and although they would be commonly used to hang pots over
the fire, no meal is simmering over the coals at this moment, and the
fire has died. In fact, a rather tortuous element is felt as one observes
the sharp, menacing hooks. A dark hole in the wall, above the iron grating,
conveys an aura of doom. Since Wyeth was said to be fascinated with death,
a gruesome aspect is often found in his work.
Although ‘Ides of March’ may seem
to be an odd title for the painting, it is rather
appropriate as the term is often used to describe
a time of foreboding. In Shakespeare’s
Julius Caesar, Caesar is warned by a soothsayer
to “beware the Ides of March” (Caesar’s
death occurred mid-month, on March 15). To this
day, the idiom is widely associated with doom
and danger. The word “ides” means
‘half-division’ in Latin, which
can be aptly applied to this painting because
of its undeniable dichotomy.
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