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Newell Convers Wyeth (1882 - 1945)

Lot 198: N.C. Wyeth 1882-1945 , King Mark Slew The Noble Knight Sir Tristram


May 23, 2007
New York, NY, US

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signed N.C.Wyeth , u.l. oil on canvas


measurements 40 by 32 in. alternate measurements (101.6 by 81.3 cm)


Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum, N.C. Wyeth Exhibition , May-October 1972
San Francisco, M.H. De Young Memorial Museum, The Art of Andrew Wyeth , June-September 1973, no. 91


Sidney Lanier, ed. The Boy?s King Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory?s History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, New York, 1952, illustrated opposite p. 191
Douglas Allen and Douglas Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, illustrated p. 104
David Michaelis, N.C. Wyeth: A Biography, New York, 1998, illustrated opposite p.181


Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Rauch Randall
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1981


Painted in 1917.This painting is included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of N.C. Wyeth’s work compiled by the Brandywine River Museum and Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
At the urging of his fellow art students at the Eric Pape School of Art, a young and talented N.C. Wyeth submitted a selection of his drawings to Howard Pyle for possible admission to his eponymous school in Wilmington, Delaware; to his surprise, Wyeth was accepted by the very selective Pyle. As a student he flourished under Pyle?s tutelage and only a year into his studies, he published his first illustration for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. In 1911, Wyeth received his first large commission from Charles Scribner & Sons to illustrate Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. This illustrated edition of the classic story gained Wyeth national recognition and he went on to illustrate a great number of other stories for ?Scribner Illustrated Classics,? including The Boy?s King Arthur in 1917. Though Pyle had illustrated a previous edition of this work, Wyeth?s version outsold Pyle?s in six fewer printings. Knighted by his uncle King Mark, Sir Tristam is a model hero of Arthurian times. Tristam loves King Mark as a father, and though he loves the beautiful Isolde, he brings her to his uncle to marry. The present work depicts the climax of the chapter about Sir Tristam, when King Mark?s jealousy over Isolde?s love for Tristam causes the king to slay his nephew. Like his mentor 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: King Mark?s sword is raised, ready to strike, while Tristam and Isolde sit calmly, completely absorbed by Tristam?s music making and unaware of the horror to come. In discussing Wyeth?s illustrations of the late 1910s, Chris Fauver writes, ?Wyeth may have recognized parallels between the brutality of the medieval era, which he described in a letter as ?rich in picturesqueness but black with infamy? and the Great War unfolding at the time of this work. Though he executed propaganda pieces for the war department while illustrating this book, he made little secret of his extreme ill-ease with American war fever? (Visions of Adventure, ed. John Edward Dell, New York, 2000, p. 29).

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May 23, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

New York, NY, US