Thursday, July 8, 2021

N.C. Wyeth at the Farnsworth

Newell Convers (N.C.) Wyeth (1882-1945), Wikipedia entry here, was one of the leading American illustrators during the first decades of the Twentieth Century.  As Wikipedia mentions, his non-illustration paintings were often explorations into various fashionable Fine Art styles.  From the David Michaelis' biography I gleaned that N.C. felt illustration was lesser than Fine Art and hoped to establish a good reputation in that field as well.

I wrote about that here, featuring one of his Fine Art attempts I'd seen at the Branywine River Museum in Pennsylvania a few years ago.

It happens that more such works can be seen at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine (museum site here, Wikipedia entry here).  The Wyeth family spent many summers in Maine and Betsy James Wyeth (1921-2020), Andrew Wyeth's widow, donated a number of works by N.C., Andrew and Jamie to the Farnsworth.

Below are iPhone photos I took when visiting the Farnsworth around the 10th of June of this year.  Images of entire works are uncropped and include the nearby information plaques to provide a sense of the paintings' sizes.

Raw images are larger than usual here, so feel free to click on them for significant enlargement.


"Westward Ho" endpapers illustration - 1920
This was the only example of N.C.'s illustration work on display.  Its composition is influenced by the endpaper vertical fold line running down the center.

"Westward Ho" detail
Wyeth's illustrations were usually quite "solid" in their treatment of people and key objects.  His Fine Art works varied from this to one degree or another.

The Harbor at Herring Gut - 1925
Here Wyeth seems to be trying out "naïve" (untrained) art: note the unrealistic sizes of some of the subjects.

Lobsterman - 1927
This is the most abstract of the paintings I saw.  Very large, rather interesting.  But he seems not to have pursued this approach further.

Cleaning Fish - 1933
Solid details, but twisted perspective and other wisps of Expressionism.

Untitled - Port Clyde Harbor scene - 1933
Unfinished painting left at the charcoal-on-canvas stage.

Untitled, detail
This probably reflects N.C.'s illustration procedure.

Fisherman's Family - c. 1933-34
Again, a little Expressionism, but coupled with 1930s modernist simplification.

Fisherman's Family study
Apparently Wyeth was dissatisfied with the composition.  One eliminated detail is the boy at the left.

The Morris House, Poert Clyde - c. 1937
The latest of the paintings I saw.  It vaguely reminds me of Edward Hopper paintings of buildings.  Could N.C. have been influenced by Hopper here?

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