5.9.11

N.C. Wyath - 100 year anniversary of the building of his studio

We've been having a great holiday weekend. Yesterday, I took a little side trip from a family outing to tour N.C. Wyeth's home and studio built 100 years ago. Newell Convers Wyeth, one of the top illustrators just after the turn of the last century created the beautiful painted images for the book Treasure Island.


His paintings are so much more beautiful in person - and can be seen at Brandywine Museum in Chadd's Ford Pennsylvania.

Proceeds from the Treasure Island book illustrations allowed N.C. to purchase this property where he built his studio and home in the Chadds Ford area of Pennsylvania where he studied with his mentor Howard Pyle years earlier.


public domain images


His studio, flooded with natural north light through a palladian window (which opens!) also includes a large mural studio and prop room. An extended studio intended for his daughter Carolyn Wyeth was also used by his youngest son Andrew Wyeth (who passed away last year) when Andrew was painting the Helga pictures. Someone had the presence of mind to protect N.C.'s things on the day after his death and take photos so that the studio can be seen today much in the way it looked on the day he died - right down to the painting on his easel. As I looked at his palette and worn brushes, I was struck to see that there was a scar in his painting jacket right at the point where his palette would have crossed his arm ... with paint piled high right above the distinguishable mark that painters who work with a hand held palette would recognize on their own clothes. Somehow that served as a reminder that while this 100 year old studio represents recent history, we are lucky that many painting traditions have survived through hundreds of years of change.


photo by Tricia Ratliff
My interest in (and appreciation of) these early illustrators was born only recently of a tour last summer of Norman Rockwell's work at the National Portrait Gallery in DC. Previously, I had thought of Rockwell's work as kind of "kitch" but when I saw the brilliant paintings in person with beautiful light handling, action and his ability to capture a story in these full sized paintings, I was both impressed and humbled over my earlier attitude. I have a new appreciation for that fleeting time in artistic history before current technology but just after printed material was becoming broadly available. N.C. Wyeth, like Norman Rockwell, Andrew Loomis, Maxfield Parrish, Harvey Dunn and Howard Pyle employed classical realist techniques and modified them for the challenges of print in order to create these visual stories.

The last photo here is the morning "commute" along the path between N.C. Wyeth's house (below) to his studio.


N.C.'s great grandson Jamie Wyeth's still paints and exhibits. His artwork is on view at the Brandywine gallery this month. Although this post was about his grandfather, Jamie's paintings ... and even individual pieces like his marvelous paint eating pig are deserving of their own posts.