Day #56: N.C. Wyeth

In my early teens, I chanced upon a copy of Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, when I was rummaging through the shelves of an antiques shop. I was immediately besotted with the illustrations. I purchased the book, went to the library to discover what I could about Mr. Wyeth, learned that he was a student of Howard Pyle’s (another artist I admire), and I was hooked. I have continued to learn everything about him and the family of artists he created.

“Nathan Hale,” by N.C. Wyeth

In The New York Times, Adam Gopnik writes, “But in fact his genius lay in making his pictures much less dramatic than pictures like this had ever been before—his gift was for slowing down and sobering up book illustration so that it took on some of the gravity that had in the past belonged only to high art.”

In the same article, Gopnik quotes, “In 1908, after even more commercial success as a cowpunching illustrator of westerns, he retreated into a house on a hill overlooking Chadds Ford and announced that ‘painting and illustration cannot be mixed—one cannot merge from one into the other.”’ Intrigued, I set about learning as much as I could about illustration. My forward path was paving itself before me.

I am grateful for the lasting fascination sparked by the illustrations and paintings of N.C. Wyeth.

2 thoughts on “Day #56: N.C. Wyeth”

  1. So many memories and thoughts flood in when I try to share my feelings about N.C. that I cannot settle on one to share with you. I am tearful when I think of how his work is dismissed as merely that of an “Illustrator” and not an “Artist.” I have stood in front of his paintings…illustrations for written works…and wept with the beauty of the artistry. From his use of shadow and light and colour to his ability to impart mood (Tension! Joy! Sorrow!), I hold his work up as some of finest. As an artist, if I could travel in time, I would go back and join the Brandywine Group (if they would have me). Alas, I cannot, and so, at every opportunity I fill my heart and soul with Wyeth’s glorious work. His son’s work isn’t bad either. 😁


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