N. C. Wyeth

N. C. Wyeth illustrations and landscape paintings

N. C. Wyeth illustrations and landscape paintings

When I first started Lines and Colors back in 2005, I actually wondered if I might run out of artists I admire to write about. Some fourteen years and several thousand posts later, my list of potential subjects is longer than the lost of those I’ve covered.

There are some artists, however, who are among my very favorites, that I have not yet covered. In the case of N. C. Wyeth, I’ve allowed myself to be intimidated by the task of conveying my respect and and enthusiasm for his work, and I’m remiss in not getting to this post sooner.

Along with his teacher, Howard Pyle, Newell Convers Wyeth was both one of America’s best and most beloved illustrators, and one of America’s great painters in any sense.

Given Pyle’s stature, influence and level of accomplishment, it’s no mean feat that — in my opinion, at least — the student surpassed the master in many respects.

While Pyle brought a new level of dynamics and drama to previously staid and theatrical approaches to illustration, Wyeth took his teacher’s mastery of drama and cranked it up to 11, placing the viewer on the edge of impending action or danger.

In the process, Wyeth developed a dramatic and remarkable use of light and strong value contrasts, often setting a foreground character in deep shadow against a brightly lit background.

Wyeth was also a master of texture, and many of his settings and backgrounds resound with a beautiful naturalism that owes much to his secondary practice of landscape painting.

If you search, you will find many references to N. C. Wyeth’s career as an illustrator, both in collections and reproductions of the classic books he illustrated, titles like The Black Arrow, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Mysterious Island, The Boy’s King Arthur, The White Company, The Last of the Mohicans and many others.

What you will see less often, but can find with some digging, are examples of Wyeth’s landscapes, both of the area around Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania — where he settled after moving to the area from his home in Massachusets in order to study with Pyle — and of the area around his eventual summer home in Maine.

In his landscapes in particular, but also in his illustrations, Wyeth was a restless experimenter. He was familiar with Daniel Garber and other artists of the nearby New hope school of Pennsylvania Impressionists, and many of his paintings draw on Impressionist technique. You can also see the influence of regionalist painters like Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood.

Wyeth taught all of his children art, most notably, his son, Andrew Wyeth. N. C. was an imposing figure, both in personality and in his ability, and I have to wonder if his overwhelming command of drama and bold color led Andrew to choose his path of muted colors, textural paint application and contemplative subject matter.

N. C. Wyeth also did commercial illustration, murals, still life and other subjects. There are significant collections of his work in the Farnsworth Art Museum and the Portland Museum of art in Maine, and in particular, in the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA.

I grew up in the area around Wilmington, Delaware and the Brandywine Valley, and I’ve been going to the Brandywine River Museum since it opened while I was in my early 20s. N. C. Wyeth has been a big influence on my appreciation of art in general and illustration in particular.

The museum ordinarily has an extensive exhibit of N. C. Wyeth’s work — as well at the work of his son, Andrew Wyeth, and his grandson Jamie Wyeth — but at the moment there is a special exhibition, N. C. Wyeth: New Perspectives, that features work drawn from the permanent collection, as well as many pieces borrowed from other museums and private collections, and includes a number of his rarely seen landscape paintings.

The exhibit runs until September 15, 2019.

There is a catalog accompanying the exhibit, and there are a number of other books with Wyeth’s work, including beautiful hardbound reproduction editions of many of the classics he illustrated as well as collections, like Visions of Adventure: N. C. Wyeth and the Brandywine Artists, that offers and introduction to some of his contemporaries and other students of Howard Pyle.

There is also a Catalogue Raisonné of his work, expensive as a two volume boxed set, but accessible in an online version courtesy of the Brandywine River Museum that is one of the best places to see some of N. C. Wyeth’s landscapes, even if reproduced smaller than we might like.


Ambrogio Alciati

Ambrogio Antonio Alciati, Italian Romantic portrait painter,

Ambrogio Antonio Alciati, Italian Romantic portrait painter,

Ambrogio Antonio Alciati was an Italian painter active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He was primarily a society portrait painter, but many of his other canvasses were subjects of romance, courtship and passion.

His style evolved over time, a darker more classical approach giving way to painterly splashes of color.


Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis, etching

Martin Lewis, etchings, drypoint, aquatint and engraving

Martin Lewis was an Australian/American printmaker, illustrator and painter active in the first half of the 20th century.

He is known primarily for his etchings of wonderfully evocative scenes of urban life, often focusing on the effects of artificial light in nighttime scenes.

In much of his work, shadows and areas absent of light play a role as important as objects and areas of light. The balance and play between them give his compositions a dynamic and visceral feeling of atmosphere and place.

Among his friends was Edward Hopper, who asked Lewis to teach him the fundamentals of etching.

[Via William Wray]


Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of Rubens Peale

Rubens Peale with a Geranium, Rembrandt Peale

Rubens Peale with a Geranium, Rembrandt Peale

Rubens Peale with a Geranium, Rembrandt Peale, oil on Canvas, roughly 28 x 24 inches (71 x 61 cm); in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, DC.

Link is to the NGA page, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version of the image. There is also a zoomable version on the Google Art Project, and a downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons.

The American painter and naturalist Charles Willson Peale named most of his children after noted artists or scientists. Some of them took up the interests of their father, Rembrandt became a noted portrait painter, and Rubens a botanist and later in life a still life painter.

Here, a young Rembrandt Peale paints a portrait of his 17 year old brother Rubens holding his prize specimen of a geranium — at the time an exotic plant, not native to the Americas — supposedly the first grown on the continent. Rembrandt has given the plant a careful and portrait-like treatment to honor his brother’s accomplishment.


J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

J.M.W. Turner Sketchbooks

J.M.W. Turner Sketchbooks

English painter and printmaker J.M.W. Turner, who was active in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, was astonishingly prolific. On his death, he left over 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolors and more than 30,000 works on paper.

Many of the latter are pages from his sketchbooks, and many of those are in the collection of the Tate Britain as part of the extraordinary Turner Bequest, which brought the museum’s holding of Turner’s works to over 37,000.

The Tate has put a number of these online, in a special section of their website: J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings, Watercolours.

The resource is divided into 5 chronologically arranged sections from different points in the artist’s career, and within that, the works are arranged in subsections by location or other theme. Exploring is a matter of drilling down through the categories to subcategories.

Eventually, you will come to pages in which an individual sketchbook or thematic group of works is available in a slideshow. In the initial window of that slideshow there are usually two tabs, allowing you to choose between “Entry” (the slideshow) and “At a glance” or “Artworks”. Choosing the latter will open up thumbnails of the images arrayed directly on the page, making them much easier to browse.

For example, in the section “1819-29 Italy and After“, there is a subsection for “Rivers of England c. 1822-4” and a subsequent subsection for “‘Rivers of England’ Watercolours“.

From there you can click on a thumbnail to go to the detail page for an artwork, and there click on the image for an enlarged view. Most of the images are available in a nicely large size.

A number of the sections contain sketchbook pages that are so light or barely notated that they may be of less interest, but if you patiently dig around, you will be rewarded with many extraordinarily accomplished works in watercolor and gouache.

The sections for “Loose Studies of Paris and the Seine” and “Meuse-Moselle Gouache and Watercolour” (among others) are particularly of interest to those who are interested in Turner’s masterful handling of gouache as a sketching medium.

This project is so extensive, so wonderful and so engrossing, that I will issue a Time Sink Warning.


Eye Candy for Today: Emilio Sanchez-Perrier river landscape

On the Banks of the Guadaíra with a boat, Emilio Sanchez-Perrier, 19th century landscape oil painting

On the Banks of the Guadaíra with a boat, Emilio Sanchez-Perrier, (details)

On the Banks of the Guadaíra with a boat, Emilio Sánchez-Perrier; oil on panel, roughly 12 x 16 inches (32 x 40 cm); in the collection of the Museo CarmenTyssen Málaga. Click on the image on their page for access to zoomable and downloadable versions. There is also a downloadable file of the same image on Wikimedia Commons.

Sánchez-Perrier’s apparent realism is surprisingly painterly when viewed in detail; much of the visually soft quality of the foliage appears to be produced with stipple effects, perhaps by pouncing with the end of a stiff brush.