Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
The Wyeth Collection of Eric and Cynthia Sambol is comprised of important and notable works from three generations of perhaps the most remarkable American art family dynasty of our time. Eric Sambol is an American businessman, photographer and philanthropist who assembled this significant collection with intense fervor and specificity for over a decade. Eric Sambol's trajectory as an art collector is traced to his passion for the organic American image. Eric, grew up in an artistic household--his mother, Janice, had studied at Pratt and was a painter in oils and watercolors. Her interest in art exposed her young son to the techniques and practices of a visual artist and soon he began to have an interest in not only appreciating art but creating it as well. A high school fieldtrip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the seminal exhibition Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons in 1976, sparked an immediate and visceral response to Andrew Wyeth's style and created an enduring interest in the work of the Wyeth family. Sambol noted that ever since his initial encounter with Wyeth, "no one could compare. The moods and feelings that I felt conveyed in his work, began an important journey which prompted my own creative work as a photographer. Collecting isn't just about purchasing objects for me--I knew behind every realistic image an ambiguity, a disquiet, and a generational family story was hiding." Eric and Cynthia Sambol started to build their collection in the mid-1990s. While their initial focus was on works by artists of the Hudson River School and Maritime, Andrew Wyeth and, in particular, the exhibition at The Met, was very much still on Eric's mind. The first acquisition of what has now formed this collection, Three Generations of Wyeths from the Collection of Eric and Cynthia Sambol, was Flat Boat, a watercolor and drybrush from 1988 depicting Brinton's Mill in the artist's hometown of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Other important works by Andrew followed, including the dramatic tempera Heat Lightning and its watercolor study, Winfields. While it was Eric's profound emotional response to the work of Andrew Wyeth that guided them to their initial acquisition, Cynthia, whose ongoing practice as a sustainable landscape farmer and designer, was instrumental in the aesthetic choices and subsequent acquisitions. Together they were captivated by quietly held iconic works that were in private collections and fervently chased them until they became available. Such was the case with the large scale drybrush, Rocky Hill. Eric and Cynthia tracked this preeminent work for seven years before finally having the opportunity to acquire it. Given the interest in Andrew's work, the couple soon expanded their collection to include examples by N.C. Wyeth, such as the powerful Maine landscape Norry Seavey Hauling Traps Off Blubber Island and several important works by Jamie Wyeth as well, including the whimsical painted paddle Night Swimmer and the majestic oil Lighthouse Dandelions. The result is a unique and compelling presentation of superb examples of each Wyeth's work and serves as a testament to their tremendous dedication to and love for the continuity of the embedded American image and psyche as seen through the Wyeths' eyes. It is Christie's distinct privilege to offer Three Generations of Wyeth: The Collection of Eric and Cynthia Sambol, presented as lots X-XX on the following pages. Property from the Collection of Eric and Cynthia Sambol
Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)

Norry Seavey Hauling Traps Off Blubber Island

Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
Norry Seavey Hauling Traps Off Blubber Island
signed and inscribed 'N.C. Wyeth To Roger L. Scaife' (lower left)--signed again, dated '1938' and inscribed with title (on the reverse)
oil on board
25 x 30 in. (63.5 x 76.2 cm.)
Roger L. Scaife, 1938.
Private collection, by descent.
Sale: Robert C. Eldred's, East Dennis, Massachusetts, 16-17 November 2001, lot 778.
Acquired by the present owners from the above.
J. Sideli, "Americana at Eldred's," Maine Antique Digest, February 2002.
C.B. Podmaniczky, N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, vol. II, London, 2008, pp. 770-71, no. L.211, illustrated.
Syracuse, New York, Everson Museum of Art, American Painting from 1830, December 3, 1965-January 16, 1996, no. 69.
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum, Summers in Maine: Paintings by N.C. Wyeth, May 31-September 1, 2003.

Lot Essay

Painted in 1938, Norry Seavey Hauling Traps off Blubber Island encapsulates N.C. Wyeth's unique ability to capture the essence of place. A sweeping vista of Blubber Island off of Port Clyde, Maine, with a lone figure hoisting his lobster traps from the sea, the present work is at once narrative and poetic, demonstrating the artist's dedication to the faithful depiction of his surroundings while imbuing the painting with a sense of magic stemming from his personal response to and fondness for the natural world. In a letter to Sidney Chase regarding Port Clyde Wyeth wrote, "it is the extraction of the abstraction that I want to get out of this beloved spot. Every spot on earth is potential of great interpretation by someone, if he but gives himself up to its underlying beauties rather than to its scenic sensations. " (B.J. Wyeth, The Wyeths: The Letters of N.C. Wyeth, 1901-1945, Boston, Massachusetts, 1971, p. 707) Indeed, Norry Seavey Hauling Traps off Blubber Island demonstrates Wyeth's own compelling love for the coastal village of Port Clyde.

A celebrated illustrator, in the 1930s, Wyeth made a decisive shift in his career by accepting fewer commissions and instead concentrating on the landscape, enjoying the artistic freedom that it provided. After spending a large portion of the decade focusing on landscape painting, in 1939, Wyeth exhibited a selection of this new body of work, many of which were Maine subjects, at Macbeth Gallery in New York. Peter Hurd, Wyeth's son-in-law and an artist himself commended the success of these works, "The paintings are the product of revolt against the inevitable limitation of the art of illustration which Mr. Wyeth has long served with sincerity and grace. Of the illustrator's heritage he takes freely and consciously those components which may relate to painting--a strongly dramatic presentation but one freed from the paraphernalia of archeology[sic]; an ability to establish vividly the quality of a certain moment in which he unfolds the observer and causes him to see, to hear, and above all, to feel. He compels us to stop and ponder with him the surrounding vision of form and color, of radiance and shadow. This world of his is at once grave and lyric." (D. Allen, D. Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth, New York, 1972, pp. 189, 191) Indeed, Norry Seavey Hauling Traps off Blubber Island manifests this departure from the compositional constraints of illustration art. Here, Wyeth employs his mature, freer style to create a painting that stirs feeling of awe and wonder while capturing the distinct beauty of the Maine coastline.

Born in Needham, Massachusetts, and settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, N.C. Wyeth traveled to the coastal village of Port Clyde, Maine for the first time in 1910. As a native New Englander, Wyeth was drawn to the region and in 1920 he purchased a former sea captain's home with his friend and fellow artist, Sidney M. Chase. Soon after, Wyeth bought out Chase's share in the land and renovated the home, fondly named Eight Bells, for use during the summer holiday. During this time, he built a small studio in Port Clyde to paint during his vacations there. Ever enraptured by the natural world around him, the rugged, untamed coastal landscape inspired Wyeth and he executed a number of compositions of the defining elements of the surrounding region. As Christine Podmaniczky notes, "As his identification with the countryside around Chadds Ford grew in strength, landscape painting increasingly occupied Wyeth's attention. After a short period of creating impressionist views in a variety of styles and techniques, from c. 1909 to 1912, Wyeth rejected this approach in favor of a more academic foundation based on 'a sound initiation into nature's truths'--direct observation and intimate knowledge of the motifs. His landscape work for the remainder of his career was based on this important precept, and many of his favorite motifs, such as familiar brooks and hills, Port Clyde harbor, or beloved structures he painted over and over again to master the pictorial details and divine the more intrinsic nature of each place." (N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 2008, pp. 62-63)

Painted as a gift for Roger Scaife, a friend of the artist and editor at Houghton Mifflin, the present work depicts Blubber Island, also known to locals as Blubber Butt, which is a small body of land located off the coast of Port Clyde. Inspired by Maine customs, Wyeth portrays a local lobsterman, Norry Seavey, laboriously pulling a lobster trap out of the water to examine its contents. Straying from his usual tendency to keep his subjects anonymous, Wyeth chose to identify the man in the title, emphasizing his personal connection to the place. Here, Wyeth skillfully composes a dramatic perspective--the painting's solitary figure appears diminished by the vast sky and the boulders of the island behind him. Wyeth chooses to render the ocean in a bright palette of intense blues mixed with greens integrating a magical and slightly surreal quality into the composition. These surrealist elements are further underscored by the dramatic shadows cast by the rocks on the island and traps on the dory.

Norry Seavey Hauling Traps off Blubber Island is exemplary of Wyeth's highly personal style which combines his training and background as an illustrator with his fascination with the natural landscape. In a letter to his daughter, Ann McCoy, dating to the summer of 1938, the year in which the present work was painted, Wyeth writes of his observation of and reaction to the Maine landscape, "My imagination is suddenly whipped into an almost exalted appreciation of the magnificence of the little isolated and unrelated scene before me, and I am astounded at its vast beauty and its sublime importance, and am made to realize in one poignant spasm, that and magnificence possible for human sight and spiritual pleasure. The limitless ocean itself, the mountains and valleys of the world are of no greater importance in appearance or significance." (The Wyeths: The Letters of N.C. Wyeth, 1901-1945, Boston, Massachusetts, 1971, p. 775) In Norry Seavey Hauling Traps off Blubber Island Wyeth communicates this wonder through the vehicle of his brush, resulting in a timeless depiction of this beloved setting.

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