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

The Homecoming

Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
The Homecoming
signed 'N.C. Wyeth' (lower right)
oil on panel
35 x 26 in. (88.9 x 66 cm.)
Painted in 1945.
The artist.
Mrs. N.C. Wyeth, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Lynch, circa 1950.
Bertha Guida, Wilmington, Delaware, circa 1962.
Newman Galleries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1979.
Private collection, acquired from the above, 1979.
By descent to the present owner.
Woman's Day Magazine, November 1945, cover illustration.
R. Layton, "Inventory of Paintings in the Wyeth Studio, 1950," Wyeth Family Archives, unpublished, p. 39 (as Soldier's Return).
D. Allen, D. Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, p. 279.
C.B. Podmaniczky, N.C. Wyeth: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, vol. 2, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 2008, p. 593, no. I1320, illustrated (as Woman's Day Magazine, cover illustration).

Lot Essay

The Homecoming by N.C. Wyeth originally appeared on the November 1945 cover of Woman’s Day magazine. It was an immensely significant issue for the publication because it signaled not only the end of World War II but also the return of the soldiers who served. A 1979 letter from Newman Galleries, located in Philadelphia, suggests that Andrew Wyeth, the artist’s son, posed for the young soldier.

In addition to depicting the beauty and simplicity of rural America, The Homecoming stirs in the viewer feelings of patriotism, nostalgia and tranquility. As the unidentified soldier stands at the top of his childhood driveway, both absorbing the once familiar farm surroundings and honoring what he fought to protect, his family dog excitedly rushes to greet him. Wyeth, in a letter related to his painting Sweet Land of Liberty (1943, Private Collection), noted that our soldiers were fighting to preserve the homes of the American people and their freedom. The Homecoming is a moving and nostalgic composition that helped forge a sense of patriotism at a critical time in the nation’s history.

N.C. Wyeth first produced a large charcoal study for the present work to ensure that he did justice to this important occasion. This study, Soldier's Return, is in the collection of the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. In comparing Soldier's Return to Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting Homecoming GI (1945, Private Collection), Alexander Nemerov writes, “N.C. Wyeth, in his large drawing entitled Soldier’s Return, also made a picture about death-in-life near war’s end—one that employs the same rhetoric Rockwell used in Homecoming GI. The scene, like Rockwell’s, is ostensibly happy. The lone soldier has come back to the family farm. His dog races to greet him, as in Rockwell’s picture. The soldier has dropped his bag unlike Rockwell’s weighted figure, releasing his wartime burden at the threshold of the farm so that he can accept with open arms the life he used to know. The property is still in perfect shape.” (Alexander Nemerov, “Coming Home in 1945, Reading Robert Frost and Norman Rockwell,” American Art, Washington, D.C., 2004, p. 67)

The present work differs from the drawing primarily in the figure and attitude of the soldier. As noted in the artist’s catalogue raisonné, “Woman’s Day art editor Kirk Wilkinson corrected many details of this composition in his correspondence with Sidney Mendelsohn of American Artists Company (letters American Artist Company to NCW, May 4 through September 6, 1945, WFA). He wrote, for example, ‘The soldier should appear to be younger and slimmer, typically G.I. and in an absolutely authentic and well-fitting uniform and with a G.I. haircut. His bag should be a standard regulation canvas…’ Mendelsohn later noted that he had asked the artist for a ‘G.I. bag that will be acceptable to the editors of Woman’s Day.'” (C.B. Podmaniczky, N.C. Wyeth: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, vol. 2, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, p. 593) With the exception of the minor changes made to the figure and the duffle bag, the rest of the composition remained true to the charcoal. The resulting final work is a stirring tribute to the people and spirit of America which survived the trials of war and is one of the final major works of N.C. Wyeth’s career.

A framed copy of the November 1945 cover of Woman's Day magazine and the 1979 letter from Newman Galleries will be included with this lot.

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