The Olson House


If you’ve seen only one of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings, it is possibly Christina’s World now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  This very famous painting is one of many that Wyeth painted using Christina and Alvaro Olson and their home as subject.

The Olson house is today a historical landmark located in Cushing, Maine, and is part of Rockland’s Farnsworth Museum which always has a large exhibit of Wyeth family works.  Although the house has little left in the way of artifacts or personal belongings, it is a fascinating place to visit as one is exposed to the views and images that became subject for Andrew Wyeth.

In the kitchen window there are always red geraniums, objects that once captured the artist’s eye

as did the battered blue door leading from the kitchen.

The only original thing in the kitchen is Christina’s stove which was returned to the house by a relative.  One can imagine Christina and Alvaro spending many an hour quietly enjoying its warmth.

Wandering through the house, one becomes aware that life here must have been very simple,

even difficult.

Until his death a couple of years ago, Andrew Wyeth’s brother-in-law Dudley Rockwell visited the Olson House every day during the summer and entertained visitors with first hand stories of the artist and his relationship with the Olsons.  Theirs was a very trusting friendship, lasting until Christina and Alvaro’s death.

The Olsons lived a quiet life in a quiet area of Maine.  Christina’s crippling illness was never diagnosed and Andrew Wyeth contributed to making her life as comfortable as possible.  She and her brother died within weeks of each other and are buried close by the homestead in a family plot.

So is Andrew Wyeth, his grave marked by a simple stone.  To me, that says a lot about the special relationship these three people had.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

13 thoughts on “The Olson House

  1. Gosh, this is cool!!!!!!!! I never get out and DO things, SEE things, EXPLORE things like you do. I have GOT to change that!!! There is just so much out there that has so much history! For now I will live vicariously through you, but you have to keep on me to get out there and see for myself what I’ve been missing! I’m glad you shared this. It’s really cool!

  2. No matter how many times you see the Christina’s World painting, it’s very moving. You can almost feel her struggle. Thank you for sharing the story, Lulu!

  3. Lulu,
    I studied this painting when I studied Art History and learned that Christina and her brother were a lot older than Wyeth, so when he painted Christina for this painting she was about 60 years old … he used her head for the study, but the body is modelled by Wyeth’s young wife ad not on Christina. (artistic licence).
    The painting itself is based on a real event though, Christina had Polio and would pull herself around on the ground.
    It was the first time I learned that a real person in a famous painting might have been “enhanced” by modelling bits (or huge chunks) of them on other people… although of course for centuries it was common practice for portrait painters to make their subjects “a little more beautiful” than they really were (or a lot LOL) because their subjects were the people footing their bills LOL.

    • You are right about Betsy Wyeth being the model for the painting, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Worth noting is that the land around the house isn’t so barren either. As for Christina’s affliction, folks here say it was never diagnosed, perhaps because of the time.

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