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Displaying items by tag: art and anxiety

In 1950, Andrew Wyeth completed a large, dark, and unsettling painting of three vultures flying above the Pennsylvania countryside (Fig.1). He called the work Soaring. The product of an unusually long and somewhat tumultuous creative gestation, this magisterial view of scavengers in flight preoccupied the painter for the better part of a decade—a period that not only witnessed his emergence as an artist of national reputation but also coincided with the rise of a new morality brought about by the horrors of World War II and the pervasive tensions of the Cold War. Although Wyeth abandoned the effort more than once, the final painting is today recognized as an early landmark in a long and influential career. Like many of Wyeth’s best efforts—the contemporaneous Christina’s World of 1948 is but one example—Soaring is both accessible and ambiguous. It is elliptical to the point of being ominous. As a representational drama in an era that prized abstraction, the painting is an outlier that rewards close observation for what it reveals about mid-century American visual culture.

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