Enduring icons of N.C. Wyeth

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NC Wyeth Paintings

King Mark Slew the Noble Knight Sir Tristam

Action/Adventure stories mesmerize readers of all ages. King Arthur brandishing Excalibur, Robin Hood with his trusty band of Merry Men, and scowling pirates are all beloved images that have made up the backdrop of many childhoods. Illustrator N. C. Wyeth became known for his portrays of these tales. Wyeth’s artistic talent coupled with a sense of adventure gave him the best insight into these stories. To this day, his illustrations are enduring icons.

A major influence of Wyeth’s was his teacher, Howard Pyle. In 1902, friends and fellow artists, Clifford Ashley and Henry Peck, urged Wyeth to travel to Wilmington, Delaware to study under Pyle. Called the father of American illustration, Pyle’s work influenced countless illustrators and filmmakers. His depictions of rouges and brave heroes inspired many, from Errol Flynn to Norman Rockwell. As a teacher, he encouraged students to venture out and experience the environment they wished to paint first hand. Boldness and drama were prized within his class.

This philosophy took to N.C. Wyeth instantly. He traveled west and lived among Native Americans. During this sojourn, Wyeth helped herd cattle and carry mail. He kept detailed sketches of everything he did and saw. The time spent in the west laid the groundwork for his future career. Outing Magazine in 1907 praised his depictions of the American outdoors. Wyeth’s illustrations were soon featured in the bestselling publications of the day.

Among Wyeth’s most recognizable works are his book cover illustrations. Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, and other adventure stories became his specialty. Wyeth had a talent for giving life to these iconic characters and placing them in environments that suited them. Many of Wyeth’s covers are still in print in the Scribner Classics line of novels.

To properly capture the spirit of Last of the Mohicans, Wyeth camped in the novel’s setting, New York’s Lake George region. His cover is rich in blue tones, representing the open sky of the area. The imposing character Uncas stands in the forefront. Uncas is shown as being part of nature and one with his surroundings. The viewer looks up at Uncas as he surveys what is ahead, conveying a sense of command and control.

N.C. Wyeth’s imagination and love of nature these illustrations seem more like photographs or film stills. He breathed life into these fictional characters and places.


Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.

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