Newell Convers Wyeth

(American, 1882 - 1945)

Newell Convers Wyeth known as N. C. Wyeth, was an American artist and illustrator. He was the pupil of artist Howard Pyle and became one of America's greatest illustrators. During his lifetime, Wyeth created over 3,000 paintings and illustrated 112 books. Wyeth was born in Needham, Massachusetts and went to Mechanics Arts School to learn drafting, and then Massachusetts Normal Art School, now Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where painting instructor Richard Andrew advised him to become an illustrator, and then the Eric Pape School of Art to learn illustration, under George Loftus Noyes and Charles W. Reed. When two of his friends were accepted to Howard Pyle's School of Art in Wilmington, Delaware and Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Wyeth was invited to try to join them in 1902. Pyle was the "father" of American illustration, and Wyeth immediately meshed with his methods and ideals. Pyle's approach included excursions to historical sites and impromptu dramas using props and costumes, meant to stimulate imagination, emotion, atmosphere, and the observation of humans in action—all necessities for his style of illustration. Pyle stressed historical accuracy and tinged it with a romantic aura. But where Pyle painted in exquisite detail, Wyeth veered toward looser, quicker strokes and relied on ominous shadows and moody backgrounds. He probably picked up his glazing technique from Pyle. Wyeth's lifelong veneration for America's historical traditions, growing out of his New England heritage and strengthened by his Chadds Ford residency in the history-rich Brandywine Valley, manifested itself in idealized, heroic images of such larger-than-life personalities as Paul Revere, George Washington, Nathan Hale, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones and Abraham Lincoln.  He painted stalwart views of Stonewall Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant and action-packed renditions of Civil War combat, suggesting valor and patriotism on both sides. As a magazine illustrator for Scribners, Wyeth traveled in the West including Arizona in 1904, and in 1906, he returned to the West on assignment for Outing magazine. From these trips, he produced over four-hundred illustrations and paintings.  During the visits, he drove a stage coach, climbed many mountains, and visited Indian tribes. When he returned to Delaware, he had numerous sketches and also artifacts he collected, which he subsequently used in his paintings. After his illustrations for "A Day with the Roundup," a story that appeared in Scribners, he had more requests for western illustration work than he could fill.  And for the remainder of his life, this subject was one he frequently painted. He also illustrated children's books including Treasure Island.  With money earned from that project, he bought eighteen acres of land at Chadd's Ford west of Philadelphia, which served as his studio and his family home for nine decades and, after the death of his wife in 1973, became the site of Brandywine River Museum.  In the 1920s, he became increasingly committed to easel painting, and he tried very hard to stay away from too many outside commitments so he was free to paint at Chadd's Ford or the Maine seacoast where he and his family vacationed.  Later he told students that to be a good illustrator, one had to become an artist first. Feeling a need to paint on larger surfaces, in the 1930s he began painting large-scale murals, and earned many commissions for public and private businesses.  Many of his mural themes were based on American history. In 1941, he was elected to the National Academy of Design in New York and was also a member of the Salmagundi Club, the Society of Illustrators, and the American Federation of the Arts.  His work is in the collections of The Brandywine River Museum and the Delaware Art Center in Wilmington.