Collection 1880s–1940s

Andrew Wyeth. Christina's World. 1948 559

Tempera on panel, 32 1/4 x 47 3/4" (81.9 x 121.3 cm). Purchase

Educator, Annie Leist: My name is Annie Leist and I work as an Associate Educator in Community, Access, and Teen Programs.

This painting is called Christina’s World. It’s by an artist named Andrew Wyeth. It was inspired by Wyeth's neighbor, Christina Olsen. She experienced a neurodegenerative disease and she lost the ability to walk by the time she was in her late 20s.

And Christina resisted the idea of using a wheelchair or crutches. She chose to get around by propelling herself on her arms. Many people find this tremendously inspiring. For me, I find it a little bit challenging. And part of that is because I’m a person with a disability. I have extremely low vision. And because I often use a cane or because I have to look very closely at things, my disability is quite visible. It's the same with Christina.

The figure is part Christina, who was 55 years old when this painting was made. But it’s also partly the artist’s younger wife, who was used as a model for the hair and the torso and some of the arms. Why was that choice made? Did it have to do with creating something more beautiful? And what does that mean when the experience of a disabled person is modified by the depiction of someone who is younger and in a non-disabled body?

This painting brings people a lot of joy, whether they know Christina’s story or not, and I think that's wonderful. Let it inspire you. But also look a little bit more deeply because it raises a lot of questions in terms of how we think about and represent the disabled experience.

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