Volumes have been written on the artistic career of N.C. Wyeth and his influence on the world of art. An early student of Howard Pyle, they are two of the most important illustration artists to ever perform. With his work for The Saturday Evening Post and illustrations of books for Scribner’s, starting with his most famous interpretation of “Treasure Island” in 1911, Wyeth sought to portray human figures with a hard-earned grandieur. His people and therefore their written characters became larger than life and part of the American Story. Pirate conflicts, western themes and other pictures of literary legends come to breathing life on his canvas compositions.
Born in Needham, Massachusetts in 1882, Wyeth came from a family of farmers, where his father encouraged a mechanical aptitude in his son. He studied draftsmanship in Boston, painted in the summer of 1901 with George Noyes, and with the encouragement of his friends Clifford Ashley and Henry Peck, he enrolled in Pyle’s School in Wilmington, Delaware in 1902. His success arrived when he successfully submitted his first cover to “The Post” five months later. Where commissions for illustrations, scenic murals and advertising images poured in and kept Wyeth extremely busy, he also pursued his fine art aspirations, beginning in the late 1920s his commitment to “Easel Paintings”, with large format canvases. The term “magic realism” has been directly associated with Wyeth as its leading practitioner attributed to his primary painting style. He began to paint scenes of local countrysides and landscapes.
Wyeth married in 1906, and once his wife Carolyn and he had their first child, they decided to move to a countryside home. Wyeth was familiar with the Brandywine Valley, since Pyle summer home and art sessions were held there. The couple settled into Chadd’s Ford, Massachusetts and begat several artistic children, including his son Andrew and his grandson Jamie. His greatest legacy is in the original artworks still, for their iconic presence is acknowledged even by those who know not the man behind the images. Wyeth himself battled to be known as an artist and a painter, against the stigmatized reputation as being “only an illustrator”. There is no doubting Wyeth’s ability to compose stirring and truthful settings for his very human subjects. He pushed stylistic boundaries and technical application for illustration, and was also an accomplished muralist. It is on canvas where he found his greatest pleasures and passions, and he is among the most celebrated of original American artist.
Two vast and important collections of the paintings of N.C. Wyeth are held by The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and the Brandywine River Museum in Chadd’s Ford, with an entire department devoted to the artist.