Expressive pictorial devices are employed to convey emotion in Public Sale, a pivotal work of the 1940s. This tempera painting depicts the forced sale of a farm in Lancaster County, after the death of the farmer’s wife. Wyeth, moved by the somber mood of the event, made numerous sketches of people and objects on the spot, but subsequently omitted them from the final painting, explaining "it’s not what you put in but what you leave out that counts." This process of simplification and distillation, added to Wyeth’s use of the barren landscape to provide emotional atmosphere, sets his work apart from the social realism of his contemporaries.
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