Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)

Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)

Born in Needham, Massachusetts, in 1882, Newell Convers Wyeth spent his childhood on a farm, thus instilling a deep appreciation of nature and the outdoors that would manifest in his later work. In 1899, he began his formal training at Boston’s Mechanics Art School and later attended the Massachusetts Normal Art School where instructors persuaded young Wyeth to concentrate on illustration. This led him to enroll at the Eric Pape School of Art, also in Boston, and by the fall of 1902, at the age of twenty, he was studying with illustrator Howard Pyle at his school in Wilmington, Delaware. Pyle’s instruction and encouragement allowed Wyeth to embark on a prolific and highly successful career as an illustrator, and in just a few months his first illustration was accepted by the Saturday Evening Post.  

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In addition to the Post, Wyeth began illustrating for Scribner’s, which commissioned him to explore the American West in 1904. He returned to the West over the next few years and produced hundreds of sketches and paintings that would lead to his enormous fame as an illustrator. Over the course of his career, he completed thousands of pictures for major periodicals, including Outing magazine, Century and Harper’s Monthly, and in 1911, he received his first book illustration assignment, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, for Scribner’s publishing house. This successful endeavor launched a long series of book illustrating contracts with Scribner’s that included Kidnapped (1913), The Last of the Mohicans (1919) and The Deerslayer (1925), among others, as well as contracts for other publishers’ books, such as Robin Hood (1917), Robinson Crusoe (1920), and Rip Van Winkle (1921). He also worked on calendars and created propaganda posters for the Unites States during World War I.  

Wyeth married Carol Bockius in 1906 and settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, eventually building a house on several acres in the Brandywine Valley. The couple had five children, four of whom became painters, with the youngest, son Andrew, being the most famous.  Although N. C. Wyeth is one of the most recognized American illustrators, he was also an accomplished muralist and painter of still life, genre scenes, landscapes and seascapes.  

As the years progressed, Wyeth began accepting fewer illustration projects in order to focus more on painting subjects of his choosing for recognition beyond his commercial work. In 1939, Macbeth Galleries in New York granted his first one-man show and one year later he was accepted into the National Academy. However, this renewal in focus was cut tragically short in 1945, when he and his young grandson Newell were killed by an approaching train when their car stalled on railroad tracks near his Chadds Ford homestead.

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