N.C. Wyeth Biography

Painter, Illustrator(1882–1945)
N.C. Wyeth was a U.S. painter and illustrator known for the art he provided for titles like Treasure Island, The Last of the Mohicans and The Yearling.

Synopsis

Born on October 22, 1882, in Needham, Massachusetts, N.C. Wyeth studied under Howard Pyle to develop his craft as a painter/illustrator. He earned acclaim for the art he provided for Scribner’s Illustrated Classics book series, with titles like The Boy’s King Arthur and Drums. He lived for an extensive time in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he was killed in a train crash on October 19, 1945.

Background and Early Career

Newell Convers Wyeth was born in Needham, Massachusetts, on October 22, 1882. His artistic interests were inspired by his mother, and he eventually eschewed a more traditional education for art training. He received tutelage from neighborhood artist Cora Livingston and attended art schools before studying at the Howard Pyle School of Art in Delaware with Pyle himself.

By his early 20s, Wyeth had begun to do magazine illustration work, and in 1904 explored U.S. Western horizons, residing with Native American communities, connecting with nature and finding deep inspiration for his art. He later wed Carolyn Brenneman Bockius in 1906. The couple went on to have five children, settling in the village of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

'Treasure Island'

At the start of the 1910s, N.C. Wyeth was hired to provide illustrations for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island for book publishing house Charles Scribner's Sons. Wyeth went on to continue his work with the company, developing a line that would come to be known as Scribner's Illustrated Classics, including titles like The Boy's King Arthur, The Last of the Mohicans, Drums and The Yearling. Wyeth won acclaim for his style of textured, moody paintings on the page, featuring personal vantage points with landscape work and giving the genre of children's storytelling distinctive realism.

Wyeth provided art for other books like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Courtship of Miles Standish and Vandemark's Folly by Herbert Quick, and was also known for his mural and canvas works.

Death and Retrospectives

Described as a strapping, engaging man, N.C. Wyeth was also said to have suffered from depression and questioned the direction of his life and career. He died on October 19, 1945, in Chadds Ford, when the car he was driving was hit by a train; the automobile also contained Wyeth's young grandson, who perished as well.

Wyeth's children, most of whom continued to live in the area of their birth, went into the fields of the arts and engineering, with son Andrew Wyeth becoming a noted realist painter as well. Published retrospectives on Wyeth's work include Great Illustrations (2011) and Legendary Illustration Art of N.C. Wyeth (2014) along with the Scribner series, which continues to be in print. A 1998 biography on Wyeth's life was written by David Michaelis.

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