Wednesday, March 6, 2013
N. C. Wyeth
Newell Convers Wyeth was born in Needham, Massachusetts, on 22 October 1882, his talent for art encouraged by his mother, who was acquainted with literary giants of the day, Henry David Thoreau and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. By the age of 12, Wyeth was painting superb watercolours. He attended the Mechanics Arts School, the Massachusetts Normal Arts School, and the Eric Paper School of Art. At the latter he learned illustration under George Loftus Noves and Charles W. Reed.
Wyeth was accepted at Howard Pyle’s School of Art in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1902 where his exuberant personality and talent made him a standout student. Pyle is considered the father of American illustration and emphasised visiting historical sites and the use of props and costumes, designed to stimulate the imagination as well as make the action and costumes appear authentic.
Wyeth’s first professional commission – a bucking bronco – appeared on the cover of Saturday Evening Post on 21 February 1903. When the paper commissioned him to illustrated a Western story, Pyle urged Wyeth to head out to the Wild West. In Colorado, Wyeth worked alongside professional cowboys, doing chores around the ranch and rounding up cattle. He visited Native American sites and worked as a mail courier after his money was stolen. A second trip two years later resulted in the beginnings of a collection of authentic artefacts.
Wyeth's famous illustrations to the classics included Treasure Island (1911), Kidnapped (1913), Robin Hood (1917), The Last of the Mohicans (1919), Robinson Crusoe (1920), Rip Van Winkle (1921), The White Company (1922) and The Yearling (1939). His illustrations also included paintings of rural life, book illustrations that encompassed countless topics and magazine illustrations for periodicals, including Century, Harper’s, Ladies Home Journal, McClure’s, Outing, The Popular Magazine and Scribner’s. He also drew posters, calendars and advertising for clients including Lucky Strike and Coca-Cola, and painted murals and portraits.
His enormous success did not make him particularly happy and he complained bitterly about the commercialism on which he was dependent, yet it allowed him to buy an old captain’s house in Port Clyde, Maine, in the 1930s where he took his family for holidays and where he painted seascapes. In 1941 he was elected to the National Academy.
He was married to Carolyn Bockius and settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, in 1908. The couple had five children, four of whom – Henrietta Wyeth Hurd (1907-1997), Carolyn Wyeth (1909-1994), Ann Wyeth McCoy (1915-2005) and Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) – went on to become artists; another son, Nathaniel C. Wyeth (1911-1990), was the inventor of the plastic bottles commonly used for drinks.
Wyeth's life ended in tragedy on 19 October 1945, aged 62. It was his habit to take his 3-year-old grandson, Newell (the son of his youngest child, Nathaniel), on his morning errands and the two were together in Wyeth's Ford Station Wagon when it stalled on a railway crossing. They were both killed instantly when the car was struck by a freight train.
Examples of N. C. Wyeth's artwork can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.