A universal theme and a unique composition, this painting of three pirates treading the wet sand of a Caribbean coastline, the leader carrying a pistol and the pair a treasure chest, is a marvelous re-discovered work. Inspired most directly from his 1911 painting series for Scribner’s edition of “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson, and combined with N.C. Wyeth's venture into an aggressive, “loose” style of brush application and adventurous colors with some of his original works in the late 1920s makes this an extremely artistic and desirable painting.
In conjunction with the Brandywine Museum and its extensive catalogue raisonne on the artist, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth have stated that they feel this painting by N.C. Wyeth, their respective father and grandfather, was done as a demonstration painting for Peter Hurd, N.C.'s son-in-law. Hurd was working as a commissioned artist for Whitman’s Chocolates and was directly tutored by Wyeth in the late 1920s. According to the previous owners, it is believed that the work sold afterward, around 1930, to the Black Flag Pest Control Company in Baltimore, Maryland. It is known that it descended through a single family with the spoken provenance that the grandfather had been given the painting by the company as an incentive to join the Black Flag Company, and its parent firm, the Boyle Midway Company.
The full story is imaginarily and easily completed by each viewer of this painting. One will say, of course they are sneaking off to bury the loot, as cohorts, while the next viewer says clearly they are headed for the ship as prisoners put to labor. And just who is the pirate with the pistol on the watch for? True, dead men tell no tales, but an artist is able to tell a multitude with one single image. Wyeth lets each finish the story, while in complete control of the setting, characters and emotions. The world auction market records at present for the artist is in fact a pirate scene.
Wet sand, rolling water, and a color palette that an avant garde fashion designer would envy, Wyeth puts forth art that inspires dreams and imitation. The depth and the reflective elements of merely the first puddle alone helps show what a compositional master Wyeth was. A technical purist, he studied anatomy and the interaction of shadows and light upon flesh, faces and clothing materials to a high degree. He mastered making imaginary characters and places real, and making real scenes the stuff of dreams.
This painting is listed in the Catalogue Raisonne on N.C. Wyeth
compiled by the Brandywine Museum near his Chadd’s Ford home estate and studio.
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