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Dr. Shin

Painting, 1981, 54.6×47.6 cm

Description of the artwork «Dr. Shin»

Painting "Dr. Sin" dramatically out of the general tone of the work of the realist Andrew Wyeth. Especially when you consider that the skeleton in an old military tunic, painted in the interior of the captain's cabin, is in fact an extravagant self-portrait of an American artist.

Initially, Dr. Sin, after whom the picture was named, was a scientist-adventurer, pirate and smuggler - the hero of a series of novels by Briton Russell Thorndike, based on which three film adaptations were filmed at different times. A character from the category of Robin Hood wore a death mask - apparently, this fact became the basis for the association with a skeleton in Wyeth's strange self-portrait.

And the oddities and family secrets "Dr. Sin" hides more than meets the eye. Take the fact that the artist wrote the bones of the skeleton from his own X-rays. At the time of the creation of the picture, he was 63 years old - the same as his father at the time of his tragic death. Illustrator of children's books Newell Converse Wyeth together with his three-year-old grandson had a terrible accident: the car they were driving was hit by a freight train at a railway crossing.

It is easy to imagine that the painting was painted while the artist was thinking about the finiteness of life and the continuity of generations. The real captain's tunic from the war of 1812, in which the skeleton is dressed, was given to him as a gift from his father. He used it while working on illustrations for books about Horatio Hornblower - a valiant officer of the Royal British Navy, a hero of the Napoleonic wars. English writer Cecil Scott Forester copied his image in part from the legendary Admiral Horatio Nelson.

The interior in the painting "Doctor Sin" is also not accidental. In 1978, Wyeth's wife Betsy purchased a small house on the South Island in Tenants Harbor, Maine, and refurbished it so that inside it was an exact replica of the captain's cabin of the HMS Victory, in which Admiral Nelson was mortally wounded during the Battle of Trafalgar. Betsy managed to achieve a striking resemblance by repeating all the key details - from the graceful curved beams to the floors in black and white checks. She presented the space, intended as a studio, as a gift to Wyeth.

The artist, in turn, responded to her with a present in the form of a painting with a skeleton in a captain's tunic - he timed it to coincide with his wife's 60th birthday. By the way, Betsy herself came up with the name: it was she who named this work "Doctor Sin". The inscription, made by the author's hand on the canvas, read: "To the Queen of the South Island from the Old Bones."

This entertaining family history cannot be considered over. A few years later, Andrew Wyeth gave the captain's tunic to his son, an artist Jamie Wyeth... He also used it as a prop in several paintings, and charades were also not without. So, on his canvas “Meteor Rain»1993, a family artifact flaunts on a lonely scarecrow near the water surface among the bare stones.

A ceremonial jacket on a stuffed animal is a strange combination. Especially if you do not know that the Scarecrow became the nickname of the literary character of Doctor Cena, after he had to borrow clothes from a garden scarecrow, and subsequently he made this forced image his signature image. Three generations of Wyeth artists have inherited not only talent, but also a peculiar sense of humor in honoring the memory of their ancestors.

The author: Natalia Azarenko
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About the artwork

This artwork was added since it is referred to in the materials below

Art form: Painting

Style of art: Magical realism

Technique: Tempera

Materials: Wood

Date of creation: 1981

Size: 54.6×47.6 cm

Artwork in selections: 16 selections