I love Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World”. It tells a story, and yet the viewer gets to fill in so much about that big landscape that we see, and the landscape of Christina’s mind.
I probably first saw it in an art book. My mother framed a print of it for the family den. It formed part of the landscape of my youth, always there in the background. It now hangs in my apartment.
When I go to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, I always pay homage to the original. Of course the original is impressive, but a funny feeling struck me the first time I saw it. Along with the sheer delight in locating it (the MOMA is a big museum, and they move the artwork around), there was an almost deflated feeling of- “Oh yes, there it is. I recognize it.” Almost as if the copy I had grown up with were the original, and this version in front of me was a copy- because the copy on my wall was my original. I was used to it.
The dimensions are different. The original is 82 cm by 1.21 m. About twice as big as the framed poster on my wall (45 by 68 cm).
The detail of the original, of course, cannot be rendered in a printed poster. On close inspection, the fine lines of Christina’s hair and the blades of grass in the field stand out distinct, as if raised from the surface of the canvas. As with most original paintings, the colours, though inherently muted in this farm portrait, stand out more vividly.
This idea of what had more value for the viewer- the first created work or its facsimile- was confirmed as I roamed around the gallery, captured in the endless cell phone picture-taking of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and countless other classic works. People are more interested in creating their copy (sometimes as a “selfie”) than in simply taking in the original with their eyes.
Original or copy- the images are indelible.