Portrait of Christina Olson
(Andrew Wyeth, American Artist 1917-2009)
“There she was without affectation – the quality
of a Medici head.”
– Andrew Wyeth
Who can look away and not be changed by his
last portrait of her: brutal, gripping, grotesque
of features, redeemed only by her steadfast spirit.
The nose large, strong, medieval; the forehead
compressed, Neanderthal; the hanging jowls
heavy, flaccid; the whole head poised solidly on
the massive neck, like a bold capitol capped
atop a column; and the mouth’s protruding
lower lip, brooding, resigned.
Yet more than these: the stare of that single eye
closest to us –watchful, suspicious, mistrustful,
menacing, almost contemptuous, as though
she harbored some inner smoldering accusation
against each of us, or perhaps our audacity,
our presence, our peering into her privacy.
Insensitive observers, drugged on common,
pedestrian and superficial beauty, will find
her ugly, an enigma, baffled that an artist like Wyeth
would waste his gifts on her – so much for
Yet hidden somewhere beneath that disfigured,
heroic flesh, she wears her womanhood without
apology, pretense, or feminine allure.
Too magnificent for self-pity, she is in art
what she was in life. In this her integrity
remains inviolate, unassailable.