On the day they met in the summer of 1939, seventeen-year-old Betsy James, who would later marry Andrew Wyeth, introduced him to Christina and Alvaro Olson. A summer neighbor and friend of the Olsons, Ms. James saw the Olson House for the first time at the age of ten. She later described it as “looming up like a weathered ship stranded on a hilltop.” Betsy and Andrew married ten months later. Over the next three decades, a growing friendship developed between the Wyeths and the Olsons, as each summer the artist sketched and painted aspects of the house and the everyday lives of the Olsons on their saltwater farm.
Christina and Alvaro and their home became symbols of New England and Maine for Andrew Wyeth, as he was drawn to the house and its residents,
“I just couldn’t stay away from there. I did other pictures while I knew them but I’d always seem to gravitate back to the house. … It was Maine.”The gift of the site to the Farnsworth Art Museum by John and Lee Adams Sculley in 1991 is especially appropriate because of the museum’s relationship with Andrew Wyeth, kindled in 1944, when the nacent museum bought six works by the young artist. A selection of Wyeth’s watercolors inspired by the Olson House from the Marunuma Art Park collection are on view this summer upstairs in the Wyeth Center. Click here for more information on the exhibition.