Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
1 More
Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
4 More
Property from an Important Western Collection

"Nothing would escape their black, jewel-like inscrutable eyes..." (The Guardians)

"Nothing would escape their black, jewel-like inscrutable eyes..." (The Guardians)
signed 'N.C. Wyeth' (lower left)
oil on canvas
46 1⁄2 x 37 1⁄2 in. (118.1 x 95.3 cm.)
Painted in 1911.
The artist.
Gouverneur Morris, New York, (probably) acquired from the above, 1911.
Edward Eberstadt & Sons, New York, 1954.
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York, 1973.
The Westervelt Company, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, by 1983.
Spanierman Gallery, New York.
J.N. Bartfield Galleries, New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1999.
G. Morris, "Growing Up," Harper's Monthly Magazine, November 1911, vol. CXXIII, no. 738, o.p. 886, illustrated.
D. Allen, D. Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, pp. 49, 259, illustrated.
K.F. Jennings, N.C. Wyeth, New York, 1992, p. 32, illustrated.
C.B. Podmaniczky, N.C. Wyeth: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, vol. 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 2008, p. 233, no. I.353, illustrated.
Albany, Georgia, Banks Haley Gallery (Southwest Georgia Art Association), N.C. Wyeth: A Loan Exhibition, January 7-February 8, 1981, no. 9.
Sylacauga, Alabama, Sylacauga Art Museum, February 24-March 24, 1982.
Montgomery, Alabama, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Howard Pyle and the Wyeths: Four Generations of American Imagination, November 12, 1983-January 6, 1984.
Jacksonville, Florida, Cummer Gallery of Art, September 14-November 11, 1984.
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum of Art; Leningrad, USSR, Academy of the Arts of USSR; Moscow, USSR, Academy of the Arts of the USSR; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Art; Chicago, Illinois, Terra Museum of American Art; Tokyo, Japan, Setagaya Art Museum; Milan, Italy, Palazzo Reale; Cambridge, England, Fitzwilliam Museum, An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art, March 11, 1987-November 22, 1988, pp. 93, 200, no. 10, illustrated.
South Bend, Indiana, South Bend Art Center, American Masterpieces from the Warner Collection, December 9, 1989-February 4, 1990.
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum; Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art; Tulsa, Oklahoma, Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, N.C. Wyeth's Wild West, September 8, 1990-April 7, 1991, pp. 22, 83, no. 40, illustrated.
Montgomery, Alabama, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Impressions of America: The Warner Collection of Gulf States Paper Corporation, June 16-July 28, 1991.
Indianapolis, Indiana, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art, American Traditions: Art from the Collections of Culver Alumni, December 12, 1993-March 6, 1994, pp. 270-71, illustrated.
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum, Art of the American West from a Private Collection, September 5-November 23, 2003.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

The present work stands as one of N.C. Wyeth's strongest compositions from a period during which The Saturday Evening Post declared that Wyeth's Western pictures have “no equal in his field.” (as quoted in D. Michaelis, NC Wyeth: A Biography, New York, 1998, p. 155) Paintings like "Nothing would escape their black, jewel-like inscrutable eyes..." (The Guardians) immersed Wyeth’s viewers in the ever-popular adventurous narratives of his day, prompting them to wonder, while simultaneously evoking a general nostalgia for his subject through heroic arrangements. Indeed, the present work epitomizes both the technical and compositional skill as well as the unmatched sense of visual narrative that has garnered N.C. Wyeth fame as one of America's foremost illustrators.

Wyeth established himself in this position by successfully fulfilling countless assignments for America's leading publications. His first commission came in 1911, when the Charles Scribner’s Sons publishing company requested his work for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. His visualization of the story was so well received that he was hired to illustrate a number of the period’s most celebrated narratives including Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, The Boy's King Arthur and The Last of the Mohicans, among others.

Rendered during the same year he completed what was arguably his greatest commission in Treasure Island, "Nothing would escape their black, jewel-like inscrutable eyes..." (The Guardians) centers on one of Wyeth’s most enduring themes. Wyeth’s initial attraction to Native American subjects came through the drawings and paintings of Frederic Remington and later more fully reinforced with his own travels West, initially in 1904. At the age of 21, Wyeth set out for Colorado and New Mexico and confronted the magnificent, vast and raw landscape for the first time. In just under three months he endured a remarkable set of experiences, gathering both stories and physical materials, such as clothing and artifacts, to draw upon for the rest of his career. Grounded in this moment of inspiration, Wyeth would go on to embrace a wide variety of Indian cultures, including those both in the West and the East.

The present work was published as an illustration for Gouverneur Morris’ short story “Growing Up” in the November 1911 issue of Harpers Monthly Magazine. Set within a Native American village, the story centers around a young boy named Andramark who lives with his mother Squirrel Eyes. Concerned about raising her son alone, Squirrel Eyes asks for help from the local Medicine Men to guide her son’s development as he approaches manhood. The men put Andramark through a series of trials and tribulations, some grueling, to accelerate his maturity.

The present work depicts the moments before the Medicine Men agree to mentor Andramark. The story recounts, “…Owl Eyes, the Wisest Medicine-man, invited two of his cronies to sit with him on the bluff overlooking the salt-marsh and watch the children playing at marriage-by-capture. Those old men were among the best judges of sports and form living. They could remember three generations of hunters and fighters. They had all the records for jumping, swimming under water, spear-throwing, axe-throwing, and bow-shooting at their tongues’ ends. And they knew the pedigree for many, many generations of every child at that moment playing in the meadow, and into just what sort of man or woman that child should grow, with good luck and proper training. Owl Eyes did not call his two cronies’ attention to Andramark. If there was any precocity in the lad it would show of itself, and nothing would escape their black, jewel-like, inscrutable eyes.” (G. Morris, Harper's Monthly Magazine, November 1911, vol. CXXIII, no. 738, pp. 881-82)

In the present composition, Wyeth accurately captures both the content and spirit of Morris’ tale, with the central figures appearing fully absorbed in their assessment of Andramark and the other children below. Their faces convey their utmost concentration, and Wyeth’s perspective forces the viewer to seemingly look up to the wise men—both affirming their stature within the story and asserting their nature as the dominant force in the village. Rendered with jewel-like tones of cerulean, amber and crimson hues, the painting exudes a dynamic and energetic quality which breathes life into this quiet yet intense moment of observation. The success of the composition, and others in the series, is evidenced in their likely being acquired by the story’s author soon after their publication. At the time, Wyeth wrote home to his mother, reporting, “Have you seen my Indian pictures in Harper's for November? The author has asked to buy both—appears that he was highly pleased with them.” (N.C. Wyeth letter to “Dear Folks,” dated in another hand Nov. 14, 1911, Wyeth Family Archives)

While "Nothing would escape their black, jewel-like inscrutable eyes..." (The Guardians) embodies Wyeth’s celebrated exploration of the Native American subject, during one of the most important periods of his career, it simultaneously speaks to the painter’s own personal passion for the subject. Douglas Allen writes, “To N.C. Wyeth, the American Indian he found of greatest interest was the Indian of [long] ago, the Indian faced by our forefathers when they first came to this land to settle. He was the Iroquois, the Huron, the Mohawk, and the Seneca. He was not the Indian of the vast plains, the mountains, or the desert. He was the Indian of poetry – the Woodland Indian of the Northeast." (N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, p. 57)

More from American Art

View All
View All