Newell Convers Wyeth was born October 22, 1882, in Needham, Massachusetts. With his mother’s encouragement, N.C. Wyeth attended several art schools – Mechanics Arts School in Boston, Massachusetts Normal Arts School, and the Eric Pape School of Art in Boston before being accepted to Howard Pyle’s School of Illustration in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1902.
After only one and a half years of Pyle’s instruction, Wyeth was appearing in national magazines such as Collier’s, Harper’s, Scribner’s, and others. His first published illustration of a bronco and rider appeared in February 1903 on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.
With funding from publishers, in September 1904, Wyeth ventured west for the first time to explore and absorb the life of the American frontier. His disciplined observation, imagination, and vivid recall of his adventures provided him with years of material – enough to fulfill America’s thirst to experience the West through words and images. He quickly became a successful and busy illustrator.
After his second trip west, Wyeth returned to Wilmington and married Carolyn Bockius on April 16, 1906. With marriage, his attention turned to the pastoral Chadds Ford countryside, a few miles from Wilmington in the heart of the Brandywine River Valley. There he purchased a house and raised his family. The rolling hills, planted fields, gentle brooks, and woodlands captivated his imagination. This softer landscape, in contrast to the rugged West, appears ad the background for many of his subsequent illustrations and the subject of many easel paintings.
In 1911, Wyeth began work on his first Scribner’s Classic, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. This remarkable work launched a relationship between publisher and painter that continued until the completion of Majorie Kinnan Rawling’s The Yearling in 1939. This famous series includes well-loved books as The Black Arrow, Kidnapped, The Boy’s King Arthur, Robin Hood, The Last of the Mohicans, and many others. Although Wyeth painted thousands of illustrations – for books, magazines, short stories, advertisements, and murals – and plein-air easel paintings, the often reprinted Scribner’s series embodies his most famous work. He interpreted the literary mood of each “classic” and created a different painting style to accompany it, bringing to the canvas an energy unique to illustration or painting.
His sensitivity and appreciation of children must have aided his natural ability to paint children’s literature. He loved their imaginations and sought inspiration from them, retaining the spirit of childhood throughout his life. He took fatherhood seriously and raised five sons and daughters, actively participating in their development. He taught them drawing and painting, literature, music, appreciation of nature, the power of imagination. His conscious goal was to create a truly American art and a generation of artists to fulfill it. Each of his children – Henriette, Carolyn, Nathaniel, Ann, and Andrew – became prodigy in prodigy in painting, music, or science.
Howard Pyle believed in the nobility of the calling to be an illustrator. But N.C. Wyeth continuously strove to create art beyond the confined of an assignment. He was enormously successful in his lifetime as a master illustrator but yearned for recognition in the world of “fine art,” where he perceived that art achieved its highest ideals of truth and beauty. He frequently tried to separate himself from the time and pressures of illustration in order to concentrate on his personal painting, but he continued accepting assignments, even up to his tragic accidental death in 1945.
Victoria Manning, excerpt from Visions of Adventure, N.C. Wyeth and the Brandywine Artists
Selected Exhibitions with Somerville Manning Gallery
2015 American & European Masters – Art of the 19th-20th Centuries
2014 American & European Masters – Art of the 19th-21st Centuries
2013 American Masters – Art of the 19th-21st Centuries
2012 American Masters – Art of the 19th-21st Centuries
2011 American and European Masters – Art of the 19th and 20th Centuries
2009 American Masters
2006 N.C. Wyeth, 25th Anniversary
2001 20th Anniversary, Visions of Adventure, Original Illustration Paintings
2000 N.C. Wyeth to Drew Struzan, Illustration: Then and Now
1999 Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth