A Piece of the World


I’ve just ordered this long awaited book and can’t wait to read it not just because it’s by an author whose works I enjoy but because it’s about people and place quite familiar to me.

Olson HouseThe piece of the world the title refers to is the Olson House in Cushing, Maine.  It is a place I’ve visited many times and am intrigued by its stories.

christinas_world-e1380208783741The main character of Kline’s novel is Christina Olson who shared the house with her brother Alvaro.  She was a simple woman crippled by a then undiagnosed disease.  She was made famous by her friend Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting Christina’s World which hangs in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.  It was her many viewings of this painting and her visits to the Olson House that inspired Kline to write A Piece of the World.

Christina Olson painted by Andrew Wyeth

Last summer I had the privilege of hearing the author talk about the inspiration for her novel which is not just about place but about a woman’s perseverance, independence and strength.  At the same time Christina Olson possessed these qualities, there was a vulnerability about her.  Inspired by the painting, Kline spent several years researching the Olsons and their 30 year relationship with Wyeth.  As history unfolded, she began to appreciate that it was likely Wyeth found something of himself in Christina.  

As I listened to Kline discuss the underlying mystery  and the influence of the rural landscape found in Wyeth’s painting, I began thinking about the power of visual art and how many ways it gives birth to another art form.  Certainly, this is true for the author whose name she shares with her subject.  I suspect that if one knew Christina Baker Kline, one would find, like with Wyeth, something shared with Christina.

What I would really like to know is how Christina felt when she saw herself as portrayed by Wyeth and how she would respond to being subject of Kline’s book.  That is the part of her story we may never know.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Imagining: the Olson House

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo matter how many times I visit the Olson House, I am intrigued by its history, the people who lived there and the art it inspired.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI imagine a young Christina Olson shrieking with delight to the creaking of her rocking horse.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI imagine her sitting in a sunlit kitchen gazing past her red geraniums to the world outside.

Olson HouseI imagine her brother Alvaro walking through the blue door after a day’s work,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAone that may have seen him putting his dory away for the season.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI imagine their friend Andrew Wyeth sitting in the kitchen with Christina and Alvaro enjoying their, perhaps, silent company.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI imagine Wyeth looking out a second floor window toward the St. George River and finding subject for his next painting.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI imagine him sitting in this room painting Christina’s World, which would  become his most famous work and inspiration for the creative output of many others.

Yes, the Olson House gives birth to many imagined wanderings, but there is a reality here, too.  


Olson Houseand Andrew Wyeth have left this place for another that they share.  Their presence here together speaks volumes about their relationship, one that I can only imagine but much of which is told through Wyeth’s art.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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