Illustration by N.C. Wyeth for the 1911 edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island
For a relatively young nation, America has produced a surprising number of artistic dynasties: the Peale family, the Calders, and spanning the 20th century, the Wyeths of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The patriarch painter, N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth, a founder of the Brandywine School, was the famed illustrator of popular editions of novels including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Black Arrow.
N.C.’s youngest son, Andrew, refused to become an illustrator like his father. Instead, he chose to paint the local residents and the rural landscapes around Chadds Ford and his summer home in Cushing, Maine. His paintings—including one of the best-known works of American art, Christina’s World—are marked by austerity and have a melancholic, mysterious, even surreal quality.
At his death in 2009, Andrew Wyeth was hailed by some as the greatest American realist painter. His son Jamie Wyeth, the third generation of Wyeth painters, continues the family tradition into the 21st century, forging his own distinctive artistic style.
Art historian Bonita Billman highlights the extraordinary body of work the Wyeths have created. She is an independent lecturer, retired from the department of art and art history at Georgetown University.
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