Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wyeth, N.C.

The Passing of Robin Hood
oil on canvas
101.5 x 81.2 cm (40 x 32 in.)
The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, USA

Leaning heavily against Little John's sobbing breast, Robin Hood flew his last arrow out through the window, far away into the deep green of the trees.

Newell Convers Wyeth (1882 - 1945), otherwise known as N. C. Wyeth, was one of the great American illustrators. He was born and raised in Needham, MA, and was something of a child prodigy with watercolors. His mother encouraged his talent, and he attended local art schools.

When Wyeth was 20 years old, he was invited to study illustration under Howard Pyle in Wilmington, Delaware. Wyeth was greatly influenced by Pyle, who is still remembered today as the “father of illustration.” Pyle instilled in Wyeth the importance of research to illustration, from trips to historical sites, to drawing from models dressed in period costumes. Wyeth was pretty much successful from the get-go as a professional illustrator, landing a cover for The Saturday Evening Post just a few months after he began studying with Pyle.

Wyeth married and settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and went on to a long career as an illustrator, painter, and muralist. During his lifetime, he created over 3,000 paintings and illustrated 112 books, 25 of them for Scribner's, the Scribner Classics, which is the work for which he is best-known. The first of these, Treasure Island, was his masterpiece and the proceeds paid for his studio. Wyeth was a realist painter just as the camera and photography began to compete with his craft. Sometimes seen as melodramatic, his illustrations were designed to be understood quickly. Wyeth, who was both a painter and an illustrator, understood the difference, and said, "Painting and illustration cannot be mixed - one cannot merge from one into the other."

In 1945, N.C. Wyeth and his grandson died in an accident at a railway crossing near his Chadds Ford home. At the time of his death, he was working on an ambitious series of murals for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company depicting the Pilgrims at Plymouth, a series completed by Andrew Wyeth and John McCoy. Andrew Wyeth (born in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania in 1917) is a son of N.C. Wyeth and his wife Carolyn Bockius Wyeth.