Advanced Search
Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Edward C. Robison III

Orca Bates

Artist: Jamie Wyeth (born 1946)
Date: 1990
40 x 40 in. (101.6 x 101.6 cm)
Framed: 45 5/8 × 45 5/8 × 1 3/4 in.
Medium: Oil on panel
Credit Line: Promised Gift to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas
Inscriptions: c.l., in red: Orca Bates
Signed: l.r., in light gray paint: J. Wyeth
On View
Label TextJamie Wyeth paints realistic scenes inspired by the places he lives and works: coastal Maine and the Pennsylvania countryside. The boy in this painting, Orca Bates, lived on a small island near Monhegan, Maine, where Wyeth maintains a studio. Growing up during the early 1990s, he became one of Wyeth's favorite models, appearing in many paintings from this period. The boy's name derives from that of the killer whale, connecting him with the surrounding sea.

Looking still wet from a swim, Orca sits on a seaman's chest, serious and focused, with his thin limbs tanned from the sun. The tilted composition suggests the effect of being inside the hull of a ship, rolling through a turbulent sea–an allusion, perhaps, to the fleeting, sometimes awkward transition into adulthood. The boy's androgynous features and digital wristwatch contrast with his rustic surroundings. A whale jawbone (a gift to Wyeth from his wife) looms behind Bates, appearing to pin him to the hard metal seat.