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    Sale 2003

    Important American Paintings, Drawings And Sculpture

    21 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 129

    Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)

    The Pioneer and the Vision

    Price Realised  


    Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
    The Pioneer and the Vision
    signed 'NC Wyeth' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    32¼ x 40¼ in. (82 x 102.2 cm.)
    Painted circa 1918.

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    N.W. Ayer and Son, the first advertising agency in the United States, commissioned The Pioneer and the Vision circa 1918 as part of a group of advertisements celebrating the company's 50th year. The image was subsequently reused in 1919 and 1926 as an advertisement for the agency in The Saturday Evening Post. In the work, N.C. Wyeth portrays a pioneer with axe in hand standing on a rocky outcrop, gazing toward a fantastic metropolis on the distant horizon. The subject and composition of the painting allude to earlier nineteenth-century landscape paintings, especially the works of Thomas Cole, and to the political and social tenets of Manifest Destiny.

    In The Pioneer and the Vision, Wyeth paints a sweeping and uplifting scene which combines his experience as an illustrator of early American history with his love of natural landscape. Skillfully composed with a dramatic perspective, the painting's solitary figure is viewed from below, appearing larger than life. The pioneer is strong, heroic, and purposefully placed in a wilderness setting. He surveys a fertile valley cut by a winding river while in the distance, an imaginary cityscape glows amidst encompassing clouds, with a rainbow extending to the heavens. This radiance serves as the solitary light source in the painting and casts a dramatic spotlight on the entire wooded middleground and the figure in the foreground.

    With its romantic, poetic and political implications, the concept of Manifest Destiny was a fittingly grand subject for Wyeth. Broadly defined as the belief that the United States was destined by divine grace to develop, Manifest Destiny became the dominant assumption underlying westward expansion. Nineteenth century painters such as John Mix Stanley portrayed their own versions of the subject to encourage people to migrate west and build on the land. Wyeth's idealization of Manifest Destiny, which he links with a dream of progress and urban development, underlies The Pioneer and the Vision, and demonstrates that even into the twentieth century Manifest Destiny remained a potent component of the national dream.

    Richard Layton writes: "It is essentially an illustrative function to arrest in painting a great episode in spiritual or political history for the celebration of the past and the inspiration of the future. Wyeth...treated many moments of American history, and...celebrated symbolically the course of human life." (D. Allen and D. Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth, New York, 1972, p. 11) Through its dramatic composition, strong representation of human character, and powerful sense of mood, The Pioneer and the Vision furthers the American painting tradition of Manifest Destiny, begun by Thomas Cole and his Hudson River School contemporaries, and brings the work into the realm of twentieth-century illustration art.


    N.W. Ayer & Son, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, circa 1918.
    John H. Epstein.
    Gift to the present owner from the above, 1976.

    Pre-Lot Text

    property from the collection of the greenville county museum


    The Saturday Evening Post, March 8, 1919, p. 32, no. 36, illustrated.
    N.W. Ayer & Son, Twelve Advertisements, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1919, n.p.
    The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1926, p. 97, illustrated (as The Widened Vision).
    Art Directors Club of New York, Sixth Annual Exhibition of Advertising Art, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1927, pp. 34, 121, illustrated (as The Widened Vision).
    D. Allen and D. Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, pp. 228, 293 (as The Widened Vision).
    A. Boime, The Magisterial Gaze: Manifest Destiny & American Landscape Painting, c. 1830-1865, Washington, D.C., 1991, pp. 114-15, 117, fig. 29, illustrated (as The Widened Vision).
    C.B. Podmaniczky, N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, London, 2008, pp. 649, 746, no. C.37, illustrated.


    New York, Art Directors Club of New York, Sixth Annual Exhibition of Advertising Art, May 4-31, 1927 (as The Widened Vision).