Andrew Wyeth’s work was instrumental in my development, particularly through studying his wonderful shapes and subtle abstractions. And this painting has a beautiful example of abstracting for the sake of the composition. I feel Wyeth would never allow the subject to dictate and would adjust to suit how he wished the viewer to participate in his visual poetry.
Lets begin with the light source and how it bathes the house. The light is coming from the upper right and it would not be possible for it to wrap around the end of the house, which begs the question, why?. The reason is composition and by abstracting and allowing the light on the end of the house he has directed your eye down to the unfortunate squirrel. The angle is far more important than ending the light at the corner (producing a vertical) for the sake of accuracy’ which would disrupt the rhythm guiding you to the squirrel. Wyeth has provided a rhythm of oblique parallels which include the trees at the far left, the light, on the house, the squirrel’s legs and the shadows on the building at the right behind the tree. He also abstracted the shadows leading down from the porch railings to harmonize with the squirrel. This is the primary movement in the composition.
The other strong rhythmic movement leading in from the bottom left is beautifully done and masterfully support the squirrel. That strong triangle at the boom right is absolutely wonderful. Can you feel how it holds you and how it harmonizes in value with the darks in the upper area of the painting? Last but not least are the yellow lines on the road and how they frame the squirrel conveying what had just happened.
Wyeth was a great poet! He was far more than a realist.