N. C. Wyeth N. C. Wyeth | Questroyal Single Artist – Questroyal

N. C. Wyeth

Artist Biography

The Father of American Illustration

By William Tylee Ranney Abbott

Newell Convers Wyeth was instrumental in the development of illustration art in the United States. Wyeth, inspired by his own brilliant imagination, transformed simple written passages into magical visual scenes, capturing the hearts and minds of viewers. While the artist was instrumental in furthering the recognition of illustration art, he was also exceptionally well rounded, creating illustrations, advertisements, landscapes, portraits, and murals.

I. Biography
II. Chronology
III. Collections
IV. Exhibitions
V. Memberships & Awards
VI. Notes
VII. Suggested Resources


I. Biography

Newell Convers Wyeth was born on October 22, 1882 in Needham, Massachusetts to Henriette and Andrew Newell Wyeth. As oldest of the four Wyeth boys, Newell Convers proved especially proficient in art and drew constantly, some 300 drawings of which still exist.1 After growing up in Needham, and attending Mechanic Arts High School in Boston, Wyeth enrolled at the Massachusetts Normal Art School in 1899 and later the Eric Pape School of Art. Just a year later, in 1900, the young artist published his first work. The next year Wyeth continued his studies with various artists in the Massachusetts area before traveling to Wilmington, Delaware to study art at the Howard Pyle School.

In 1903, at the age of 21, Wyeth published his first major work, Bronco Buster (1902, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington), on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.2 In this year, the young artist also migrated with the Howard Pyle School’s to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where the entire Wyeth family would remain for years to come. The influence of Howard Pyle on Wyeth’s work cannot be overlooked, but it is Wyeth himself who is often credited with moving beyond conventional illustration. While much of American illustration was inherited from Europe through Pyle, Wyeth’s work elevated illustration to a form of art that advanced and celebrated even the simplest concepts and defined a newly robust United States.3

Soon after completing his studies in Pennsylvania, Wyeth ventured west to Denver, Colorado, where he painted a number of canvases. After a short stay in Colorado, he continued on to New Mexico, where he spent time on a Navajo Indian reservation before returning to the East. Wyeth again traveled west in 1906, this time sponsored by Outing Magazine, to Denver, Sulphur Springs, and Gore Canyon, Colorado.4 Both these trips would prove instrumental to Wyeth’s commitment to painting truthful scenes of the West and Native Americans. It was during these travels that he amassed his significant collection of Western memorabilia and collectables, ranging from cowboy saddles to beaded Indian moccasins, to use as props for his paintings. His emphasis on these real articles for the inspiration of his work was borrowed from his instructor Pyle, as well as from Frank Earle Schoonover, and helped to add believability to his depictions.5

It was also in 1906 that Wyeth married Carolyn Brenneman Bockuis and completed his first advertising work, The Bronco Buster (1906, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota) for the Cream of Wheat Company. As Wyeth’s career continued to develop, commissions for book illustrations, in addition to advertising work, came more frequently. In 1910, he travelled to Virginia to consult on illustration work and later received the Beck Prize from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Wyeth’s practice of reading every book that he worked on, and choosing to illustrate somewhat obscure and less-described scenes allowed him to be both creative in his artistic styling as well as in his own interpretation of that scene.6 The following year, in 1911, Wyeth accepted one of his most well known commissions, Treasure Island. Interestingly, many of his paintings, including those completed for Treasure Island, were sold to the publishing companies themselves. While Wyeth received fair prices for such works ($5,000 for the Treasure Island series) it was not until later in his career that he began to sell his work on a royalty basis.7

In 1912, N.C. Wyeth exhibited his first landscape painting at the Philadelphia Sketch Club. While landscape painting was not Wyeth’s main focus, he took pride in conveying reality in his commercial work and often included rural scenes of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania as backdrops for his illustrations.8 In 1913 and 1914 he received an award for illustration from the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts. The next year Wyeth took on his first students, Clark Fay, Pitt Fitzgerald, Dwight Howland, and Leal Mack. Later, in 1917, he met possibly his greatest student, when his wife Carolyn Wyeth gave birth to her fifth child and last child, Andrew Newell Wyeth.

Wyeth’s artistic career further developed with his expansion into mural work over the next few decades. In 1918 Wyeth completed a mural at the Sub-Treasury Building in New York City. Two years later he was commissioned to paint murals for the Missouri State Capital building, which he completed in the same year. Also in 1920, Wyeth purchased a home near Port Clyde, Maine–an area that would provide artistic influence for both him and his young son, Andrew. From 1923 to 1924, N.C. Wyeth was hard at work on murals for the First National Bank of Boston. In 1927, the artist assisted in the establishment of the Wilmington Academy of Art in Delaware. Curiously, it wasn’t until 1939 that Wyeth received his first solo exhibition at a commercial gallery, the Macbeth Gallery in New York City. Perhaps inspired by the quality of this show, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Design the following year, in 1940. This same year, Wyeth began work on his most ambitious mural project, a commission from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; the mural was so large that the finished portion of the canvas could begin to be rolled as the artist continued to work at the other end.9 Tragically, in 1945 Newell Convers Wyeth was killed, along with his grandson Newell Convers Wyeth II, while crossing the railroad tracks near his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

The paintings, illustrations and murals of N.C. Wyeth has been revered over the years, appreciated both as works of art and as important illustrative accompaniments to the classic American novel. His ability to produce poignant high quality images at a prolific rate combined with a great diversity in subject matter made him one of the most versatile American painters of the 20th century. In building upon the skills and style gleaned from his teacher, Howard Pyle, Wyeth established a new standard for American illustration art. His artwork remains highly prized throughout the United States, as evident by museum acquisitions, and by his continued popularity in the art market.

II. Chronology

1882 Born on October 22 in Needham, Massachusetts to Henriette Zirngiebel Wyeth and Andrew Newell Wyeth
1899 Leaves Mechanic Arts High School, Boston and enrolls in Massachusetts Normal Art School
1900 Studies at the Eric Pape School of Art, Boston and later this years has first work published
1901 Begins studies with Charles Reed, Boston and later for a time with George Noyes in Annisquam, MA
1902 Travels to Wilmington, Delaware to enroll in the Howard Pyle School
1903 Published Bronco Buster as a Saturday Evening Post cover, moves with the Howard Pyle School to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
1904 After completing his work in Chadds Ford, travels to Denver, Colorado via Chicago, paints there before traveling to Navajo reservation in New Mexico, then returns home to Wilmington
1906 Again travels west to Denver, Sulphur Springs, and Gore Canyon, returns and establishes studio at Bancroft Studios in Wilmington, marries Carolyn Brenneman Bockuis, completes first advertising work, for Cream of Wheat Company
1908 Wyeth family moves to Chadds Ford
1910 Travels to Virginia to consult on illustration work, receives the Beck Prize at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibition
1911 Accepts commission for Treasure Island, Howard Pyle dies in Italy
1912 First exhibition of landscape painting, at the Philadelphia Sketch Club, moves for a short period to Needham
1913 Receives award for illustration from the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts, and again in 1914
1915 Takes on his first students, Clark Fay, Pitt Fitzgerald, Dwight Howland, and Leal Mack
1917 Fourth child, Andrew Wyeth, is born
1918 Completes Library Loan mural at the Sub-Treasury Building, New York City, NY
1920 Commissioned and completes Missouri State Capital building murals, travels to Port Clyde, Maine and purchases a house
1923-24 Commissioned and completes murals for First National Bank of Boston, MA
1925 Mother, Henriette Zirngiebel Wyeth, dies of cancer
1927 Assists in the establishment of Wilmington Academy of Art
1929 Marriage of his daughter, Henriette Wyeth, to his student, Peter Hurd, death of his father, Andrew Newell Wyeth
1939 First solo exhibition at a commercial gallery, Macbeth Gallery, New York City, NY
1940-41 Commissioned and completes murals for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, elected associate member of National Academy of Design, elected full member the next year, marriage of Andrew Wyeth to Betsy M. James
1945 Is killed with his grandson, Newell Convers Wyeth II, while crossing railroad tracks near home

III. Collections

Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX
Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, PA
Brooklyn Museum, Luce Center for American Art, NY
Colby Art Museum, Waterville, ME
Dallas Museum of Art, TX
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE
Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME
Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN
National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center, Oklahoma City, OK
National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, RI
National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, WY
New York Public Library, New York City, NY
Portland Museum of Art, ME
University of Arizona Museum of Art, AZ
United States Naval Academy, MD

IV. Exhibitions

1908 National Arts Club, New York City, NY, also Salmagundi Club, New York City, NY
1909-17, 20, 26, 31, 33, 35-36, 39-41, 43-44 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
1911 Pavilion of the United States of America, Rome, Italy
1912 Philadelphia Sketch Club, PA
1912-17, 19-21, 23-45 Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts, DE
1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, CA
1919 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg, PA
1923 Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA
1925 Society of Illustrators, New York, NY
1929, 31, 32, 35, 43 The Art Institute of Chicago, IL
1930, 32, 34-35, 37, 39, 43, 45 Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
1940-45 National Academy of Design, New York, NY
1941, 43-45 Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, PA
1943 New York Public Library, NY
1946 Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
1972-76, 82, 85, 90, 95, 98, 2001, 02, 05, Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, PA
1980 Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY
1987 Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, PA; Academy of the Arts of the USSR, Moscow, Russia; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England
1998-2001 Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME

V. Memberships & Awards

1913, 14 First Prize for Illustration, Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts, DE
1915 Gold Medal, Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, CA
1916 Copeland Prize for Best Picture, Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts, DE
1919 Copeland Prize for Best Picture, Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts, DE
1931 Gold Medal for Best Work in Portrait and Figure Group, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (now Smithsonian American Art Museum)
1932 Fourth Clark Prize, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
1945 Honorary Master of Arts, Bowdoin College, ME

VI. Notes

1 Christine B. Podmaniczky. N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonne of Paintings, vol. 1 (London: Scala Publishers Ltd., 2008), pp. 18
2 Ibid. pp. 637
3 Wyeth, Andrew. “N.C. Wyeth,” in An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art. et al Jim Duff, (New York: Bulfinch Press, 1987), pp. 80
4 Christine B. Podmaniczky. N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonne of Paintings, vol. 2 (London: Scala Publishers Ltd., 2008), pg. 841
5 Ibid. pp. 31
6 Wyeth, Andrew. “N.C. Wyeth” in An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art. et al Jim Duff, (New York: Bulfinch Press, 1987), pp. 79-80
7 Ibid. pp. 83
8 Ibid. pp. 82
9 Christine B. Podmaniczky. N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonne of Paintings, vol. 1 (London: Scala Publishers Ltd., 2008), pp. 61

VII. Suggested Resources

The Wyeths: The Letters of N.C. Wyeth, 1901-1945. 2 ed. Betsey James Wyeth. Lancaster: Pemcor, LLC, 2008.
Duff, Jim, et al, An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art., New York: Bulfinch Press, 1987.
Michaelis, David. N.C. Wyeth: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998
Podmaniczky, Christine B. N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonne of Paintings, vol. 1 & 2, London: Scala Publishers Ltd., 2008.

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