Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)

The Call of the Spring

Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
The Call of the Spring
signed and dated 'N.C. Wyeth/10' (lower right)
oil on canvas
42 x 28 in. (106.7 x 71.1 cm.)
Daisy and John Frances, Glen Cove, New York, by 1955.
By descent to the present owner.
Popular Magazine, 20, no. 4, June 1, 1911, n.p., cover illustration.
D. Allen, D. Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, pp. 65, 269, illustrated.
C.B. Podmaniczky, N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, vol. I, London, 2008, p. 211, no. I.304, illustrated.
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum, A Summer Idyll: Landscapes of the Brandywine, June 1-September 2, 2002.

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Lot Essay

N.C. Wyeth painted The Call of the Spring for the cover of Popular Magazine's June 1911 issue. Portraying an elderly man and his grandson en route to a day of fishing, the painting reflects Wyeth's affection for nostalgic subjects and rural America. Due to Wyeth's strong affinity to the area, he masterfully renders the Brandywine countryside with lush greens, and uses light and shadow to elicit a sense of calm and ease.

Wyeth felt most at peace in the serenity of the rural countryside surrounding his Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania home. He knew the area well, as it was the summer home of his teacher and mentor Howard Pyle. In Chadds Ford Wyeth was immediately inspired by the surrounding countryside: "In me has revived a stronger and more vital interest and love for the life that lies around me. I am finding deeper pleasure, deeper meaning in the simple things in the country life here...I am realizing that one must go beneath the surface to paint and so it is that my real loves, my real affections are reviving." (as quoted in D. Allen, D. Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, p. 63) Wyeth thrived in Chadds Ford and often found inspiration in the community around him, using members of local families as models.

Wyeth established himself as one of the preeminent illustrators of the early twentieth century by successfully fulfilling countless assignments for America's leading publishers. Possessing an incontestable knack for the profession, Wyeth's illustrations were warmly embraced by the American public. More recently, one art historian notes Wyeth's ability to combine his love of landscape and illustration: "From his earliest days as an illustrator, Wyeth had expressed a desire to become a landscape painter, and had had many conversations about this with his teacher Howard Pyle, who encouraged him to devote part of his time to such paintings. With his deep love of nature and the out-of-doors, it is easy to understand why Wyeth would find particular satisfaction in expressing these feelings in landscapes depicting his beloved Brandywine country" (N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, p. 174) The Call of the Spring exemplifies Wyeth's fusion of artistic intents in a single composition.

The first commission in which the artist integrated the Brandywine landscape was in the spring of 1907, when Scribner's sent a poem to be illustrated entitled "Back to the Farm" by Martha Gilbert Dickinson Biancini. Wyeth was so taken with the opportunities the poem afforded, that he spent that entire summer working on illustrations of his surrounding Chadds Ford landscape environment. Subsequent paintings, including the present work, The Call of the Spring, may be considered among his most heartfelt commissions inspired by the lush, rolling hills of his home.

Wyeth's versatility as an illustrator made it possible for him to turn to almost any subject or theme for his work, but his love of country life and the rural landscape remained a focal point in many of his paintings throughout his life. It is fitting that an artist closely related to a particular area would create some of his finest works there. The Call of the Spring is one such example in which Wyeth masterfully incorporates his surrounding Chadds Ford landscape into a commissioned cover.

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