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Newell Convers Wyeth (1882 - 1945)

Lot 31: N.C. WYETH 1882-1945


November 29, 2006
New York, NY, US

More About this Item



36 by 30 in.

alternate measurements
(91.4 by 76.2 cm)

signed Wyeth, l.l.

oil on canvas, unframed

Painted circa 1921.

This painting is included in the N.C. Wyeth catalogue raisonné database that is being compiled by the Brandywine River Museum and Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.


Mr. Francis deSales Casey (art editor, Life Magazine), New York, 1921 (gift from the artist)
By descent to his daughter
Gift to the present owner from the above, circa 1990


Life Magazine, September 22, 1921, vol. 78, illustrated in color on the cover
World Traveler, February 1928, illustrated in color on the cover (as On the Spanish Main)
Douglas Allen and Douglas Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth, The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, p. 265, illustrated p. 123


Stand and Deliver by N.C. Wyeth, featuring a dark and swarthy band of pirates ready to charge if their demands are not met, appeared on the cover of Life Magazine on September 22, 1921. Pirates were popular as subject matter during the 'golden age of illustration' and they were particularly featured in the work of Wyeth's teacher and mentor Howard Pyle. Pyle marveled at the fascination: "Why is it that the pirate has, and always has had, a certain lurid glamour of the heroical enveloping him round about? Is there, deep under the accumulated debris of culture, a hidden groundwork of the old-time savage? Is there even in these well-regulated times an unsubdued nature in the respectable mental household of every one of us that still kicks against the pricks of law and order? To make my meaning more clear, would not every boy, for instance--that is, every boy of any account--rather be a pirate captain than a member of Parliament?" (Visions of Adventure, N.C. Wyeth and the Brandywine Artists, New York, 2000, p. 39).

In 1902, a young and talented Wyeth, at the urging of his fellow art students at the Eric Pape School of Art, submitted a selection of his drawings to Pyle for possible admission to his eponymous school in Wilmington, Delaware. To Wyeth's surprise, he was accepted by the very selective Pyle. He recalled, "I was young, ambitious and impressionable. For years, it seemed, I had dreamed of this meeting. Success in winning this master's interest and sympathy to the cause of my own artistic advancement seemed so much to ask, so remote, such a vain hope. But here I was at last, seated before him in the very room in which were born so many of the pictures I had breathlessly admired from boyhood. Paintings and drawings that had long since become a living and indispensable part of my own life...I knew that he meant infinitely more to me than a mere teacher of illustration" (Douglas Allen, N.C. Wyeth, p. 24).

Wyeth flourished under Pyle's tutelage and only a year into his studies, he published his first illustration on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. In 1911, he received an important commission from Charles Scribner & Sons to illustrate Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Wyeth's illustrations of the swashbuckling tale surpassed those of his mentor (Pyle had illustrated his own version of the classic years prior) in the hearts and minds of young readers. Treasure Island gained Wyeth national recognition and he went on to illustrate a great number of other stories for Scribner Illustrated Classics, including Kidnapped and David Balfour also by Stevenson, as well as works for other publishers.

In 1921, the same year Harper Brother's published Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates, a compendium of the 'father of illustration's' beloved images of the marauders of the sea, Life Magazine commissioned Wyeth to paint a cover for their magazine. Such assignments allowed Wyeth to draw from his vivid imagination for inspiration as he was not restricted by the story line of a book illustration or the commercial demands of an advertisement. Wyeth produced Stand and Deliver, one of his most dynamic depictions of the buccaneer, reflecting his continued interest in the pirate as subject matter. Wyeth chose to depict a brigade of wonderfully expressive and colorfully clad bandits ready to strike. Like Pyle, Wyeth "fixed upon the moment before the climax...'To put figures in violent action is theatrical and not dramatic,' Pyle had taught him. 'In deep emotion there is a certain dignity and restraint of action which is more expressive'" (David Michaelis, N.C. Wyeth: A Biography, New York, 1998, p. 199). Wyeth deftly employed this tactic, creating palpable tension with his dynamic composition: raised swords pierce the sky, held aloft by a swarm of angry men, while their fearless leader, with his powerful pistol and imposing stare, implores the viewer to 'stand and deliver.'

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