I saw this painting today and became transfixed by it. The wind has brought the smell of the sea and the birds on the old and frail lace curtain have momentarily caught wind in their wings. I felt nostalgia, melancholia, a certain sweet longing, which the Greeks called pothos – “a yearning desire for a distant object.” In Senex and Puer, James Hillman defined pothos as the feeling that “drives the sailor-wanderer to quest for what cannot be fulfilled.”
I tried to find out what the story behind the painting was, though I was in two minds whether I really wanted to know. The critics point out that it was inspired by the death of Wyeth’s father in a tragic accident that happened a year before the painting was created. The same critics point out that the window overlooks the Wyeth family graveyard. Others point out that “Wind from the Sea” is intimately connected with “Christina’s World”- another painting by Wyeth which was created a year later and which shows the artist’s dear friend, a paraplegic, who used to crawl in the grass because this was the only way she was able to move about.
Wyeth once said about his art: “It’s a moment that I’m after, a fleeting moment, but not a frozen moment.” I may have already said too much: explaining away a work of art destroys the feeling of pothos, freezing the fleetingness of the image. Pothos was the son of the rainbow goddess Iris and Zephyrus, god of the West Wind. Neither the wind nor the rainbow can be harvested for petrified samples, which would give away all their mysteries and hidden meanings.
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Christopher Benfrey, “Wyeth and the Pursuit of Strangeness” The New York Review of Books, June 19, 2014
James Hillman, Senex and Puer (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman 3)