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Posts Tagged ‘NC Wyeth’

NC Wyeth Again

I am busy this morning but it’s never too hectic to ignore taking a look at the work of NC Wyeth. Below is a post from back in 2009 that I have updated with a few more images and a nice video of Wyeth’s painting. Just great stuff…

NC Wyeth The Giant NC Wyeth , who lived from 1882 until 1945, was the father of Andrew Wyeth and head of the artistic Wyeth family. He was also 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.

His 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
NC Wyeth

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Andrew Wyeth -Mother Archie's Church 1945

Andrew Wyeth -Mother Archie’s Church 1945

We went to Cooperstown this past Monday to catch the last day of the Wyeth Family exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum.  It was a great show featuring work from patriarch NC Wyeth,   son Andrew, grandson Jamie, daughter Henriette and daughter Carolyn as well as Henriette’s husband, Peter Hurd and NC’s primary influence Howard Pyle.  That’s a lot of talent to jam into a relatively intimate space.  You might think that it would be less than satisfying but the curating of this show was masterful, showing each artist in a truly representative manner that gave a real taste of their body of work.   Just a wonderful show.  I am glad I got to see it  if only to see a few of NC Wyeth’s gorgeous works and to discover more about his son-in-law, Peter Hurd, whose work is wonderful, bringing to mind the regionalist painters such as Grant Wood.

Thomas Cole- The Course of Empire- Destruction

Thomas Cole- The Course of Empire- Destruction

Of course, there was also the spectacular Thaw Collection of American Indian Art to see.  As always, it was a thrill to see the beautiful aesthetic of the native culture.  And as good as both the Wyeth show and the Thaw Collection were, I was truly bowled over by the current show, The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, featuring works from the Hudson River painters of the 19th century,  Just beautiful and strong examples from the genre, highlighted for me by the works of Asher Durand and the spectacular Thomas Cole series of five paintings, The Course of Empire , which features the rise and fall of an empire in the landscape, a rocky peak with a precariously perched boulder standing as a constant witness.  You have probably seen some of the paintings from this series but to see them together  in their full scale is to really get a great appreciation for their power.  It hangs at the Fenimore until September 29, so if you can, take a trip and see some incredible work.

 

Cole, Course of Empire - Savage State 1834 Cole, Course of Empire - Arcadia, Pastoral State 1834 Cole, Course of Empire - Consummation of Empire 1835 Cole, Course of Empire - Desolation 1836

 

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Howard Pyle-  Marooned PirateLater this year, the Fenimore Art Museum will be presenting a big show featuring the works of the first family of American art, the Wyeths, in a show titled  The Wyeths: A Family Legacy.  I have written several times here about my admiration for the work of  family patriarch NC Wyeth and son, Andrew Wyeth.  Their work is woven into the cloth of American art and this should be a great exhibit highlighting their work as well as other talented members of the clan.  Also included in this show will be work  by the great American illustrator, Howard Pyle, who was the teacher and mentor to NC.

Howard PyleAlthough his name is not nearly as well known as many who followed in his footsteps, it’s hard to overstate the influence that Pyle (1853-1911)  had on future generations of American illustrators and artists.  He was huge in his time, a celebrity who mingled with the great writers and thinkers of the time.  His illustrations for many of the most popular magazines of that time, based on the great stories of literature, shaped how we saw those stories.  Cinematographers, costumers and set designers took their clues from Pyle’s visions of the stories they were staging.  For example, his vision of Robin Hood became the idealized version that we came to know in the old Errol Flynn classic movie.  His idea of the pirates of Treasure Island became ours.  His cowboys, knights  and explorers ingrained themselves into our collective psyche as we saw them on the page and on the movie screen.

Howard-Pyle-The-Wolf-and-Doctor-Wilkinson-Once-it-Chased-Doctor-Wilkinson-into-the-Very-Town-ItselfThere is an interesting sidebar to the extent of Pyle’s fame.  In a letter to his brother, Theo, Vincent Van Gogh wrote ” Do you know an American magazine Harpers Monthly?  There are wonderful sketches in it…which struck me dumb with admiration…by Howard Pyle”  His work may have been illustration but it was  pure art as well and the eye of Van Gogh could see that in the  line work and rhythm of his compositions.   I know that I am always inspired by his work and the that of his acolytes,  including NC Wyeth and Norman Rockwell.   I am  really looking forward to seeing his work alongside the Wyeths this year at the Fenimore.  It should be a memorable show.

 

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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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