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Posts Tagged ‘Arthurian legend’

NC Wyeth The GiantIn an earlier post I talked about the great American painter Andrew Wyeth on the day after he died.  His father was NC Wyeth who was the preeminent illustrator of the early 20th century, illustrating some of the great books of the time.

Throughout his life, he wanted to be known not as an illustrator but as an easel painter, a fine artist.  There seemed to be this fine distinction that because an illustrator brought the scenes and ideas of others’ stories to life that they were somehow below the work of those who painted solely their own ideas.  I never understood that concept because it was still Wyeth who composed the paintings and created the colors and brushstrokes that distinguished the work.  Wasn’t this very much the same as many Renaissance artists who painted many of their great works for the Church?  Are they not considered fine artists?

NC Wyeth- Rip Van WinkleI’ve always been attracted to the work of NC Wyeth having seen it innumerable times in print.  There was a real dynamic quality, punch, in his paintings.  However, it wasn’t until I saw his work in person that I truly appreciated how beautiful his work truly was.

He treated many of his illustrations as fine paintings, with glorious paint appplication that created beautiful surfaces within the painting.  His colors were complex, hardly ever a pure single color.  His blues often had glazes of red, his whites tinged with yellows.  All of his colors had an  earthy base that gave them a dark edge and weight. His compositions were bold and inventive, highly contrasting and dramatic to best illustrate many of the adventure stories on which he worked.  In person, many of these paintings are even more stunning than on the printed page.

NC Wyeth Last of the MohicansHis non-illustrative work was much more mundane, less dramatic but well executed.  His real spark seemed to be from the stories he was bringing to life.  The Arthurian legends, the Leatherstocking tales of Cooper, the pirates of Robert Louis Stevenson–  all seemed fresh and new in his paintings.  Unlike many artists, I think being freed from having to create a narrative of his own actually gave him the opportunity to fully exploit all the knowledge of technique and composition he held.  As though having the decision of what to paint taken from his hands allowed that energy that would be expended to be used on making the painting stronger.  Whatever the case, whether you choose to call it fine art or illustration, the resulting work was memorable and deserves a nod.  It continues to inspire to this very day.

NC Wyeth Blind PewNC Wyeth

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