By Jeff French Segall
This Monday, while taking my daily stroll through Central Park, I reached the far end of the field, just to the north of Turtle Pond.
In the sun-drenched field, children were playing soccer with one another and their parents, friends chatted amiably…and, then, with the Manhattan skyline in the background, I saw this lone woman seated on the lawn, leaning slightly forward, looking across the field toward a young soccer player.
Something urged me to capture that image in my camera. At home, upon viewing the photograph on my computer, I realized what it was that had so impelled me to take that shot.
Anna Christina Olson is the subject of one of Andrew Wyeth’s best-known paintings, Christina’s World, painted in 1948, currently owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Here is a segment of what MOMA had to say about the painting:
Wyeth’s neighbor Anna Christina Olson inspired the composition, which is one of four paintings by Wyeth in which she appears. As a young girl, Olson developed a degenerative muscle condition—possibly polio—that left her unable to walk. She refused to use a wheelchair, preferring to crawl, as depicted here, using her arms to drag her lower body along. ‘The challenge to me,” Wyeth explained, ‘was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless.
In this writer’s opinion, Wyeth’s point was that hopelessness was the last thing on Christina’s mind. She insisted on demonstrating by her daily activities that she was capable of as much locomotion as she desired and that she would not let herself be dominated by what others perceived as her disability. In short, he admired her strength and succeeded in portraying that in his powerful painting.