Art as a Family Affair: The Legacy of the Wyeths, Pt. 1(N.C. Wyeth)

[Guest post by Pat Knepley]

Pat Knepley shares art history with homeschool families on the Art as a Family Affair: The Legacy of the Wyeths, Pt. 1(N.C. Wyeth).No other family has had quite the impact on the twentieth century American art scene as the Wyeths. N.C. Wyeth (Newell Convers Wyeth) the patriarch,  was born in 1882 and studied art and drafting at the Mechanic Arts School in Boston and some other institutions in Massachusetts. In 1902 he traveled to the Philadelphia suburb of Chadds Ford Pennsylvania to study with the great father of Illustration, Howard Pyle. NC stayed in Chadds Ford for the remainder of his life, splitting his time between there and a vacation home in Maine.

NC (who was called Convers by friends) followed in his teacher’s footsteps to become one of our country’s greatest illustrators. Illustrators are those that create art for publication, such as for books, magazines or in advertising. Illustrators are hired for a very specific project, called a commission, and one of N.C. Wyeth’s first commissions was to create a cover for the Saturday Evening Post, a very popular magazine in 1903.

N.C. Wyeth is probably best known for his amazing illustrations for classic children’s literature. His most important commission came in 1911 from Charles Scribner’s Sons publishing house, to illustrate Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. After the enormous popularity of this first book, N.C. enjoyed a long career illustrating classics for Scribner’s as well as other publishers.


To see more illustrations by N.C. Wyeth go here:

The intense realism and superb technical skill in these illustrations were matched by N.C. Wyeth’s creativity. Rather than opt to illustrate a scene that was described in detail by the author  in the story, Wyeth often chose an obscure line as his inspiration and then used his own imagination to make the story come alive.  N.C. Wyeth illustrated the adventures of knights and kings, as well as great cowboy westerns. To that end, he spent some time out West, even working as a ranch hand to immerse himself in the sights, sounds, and feel of the world he wished to illustrate. In addition to book illustrations, N.C. continued to illustrate for advertisements,  many magazine covers and even the US military. He felt torn between the demands of commercial art to support his growing family, and his desire to just make art for art’s sake. N.C. Wyeth had a wife and five children, and was dedicated to his family, tutoring each one of his children at home for much of their schooling.


All of the Wyeths spent a considerable amount of time drawing as young artists, and even once they were store_art_classestablished, they would sketch their subject  before they would paint. To learn the basics of drawing, a key part of any artist’s training, check out the See The Light Art Class series on DVD featuring the this column’s author Pat Knepley as Master Artist.

This 9-disc DVD set provides 36 lessons of basic drawing instruction for young artists age 6-12. Each skill-building lesson is presented from a biblical worldview.



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