N.C. Wyeth established himself as one of the preeminent illustrators of the early twentieth century by successfully fulfilling countless assignments at the demand of America's publishers. Possessing an incontestable knack for the profession, Wyeth's illustrations were warmly embraced by the American public. "However, 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" (D. Allen and D. Allen, Jr., N. C. Wyeth, New York, 1972, p. 174)
Conceived on the large scale that is characteristic of his easel paintings, Chadds Ford Hills is a powerful rendering of the magnificent topography of the Brandywine region of Pennsylvania. Its palette captures the broad spectrum of shades and colors offered by the autumn foliage, and the sky and hills are painted with remarkably bold diagonal strokes. The resulting composition evokes dynamic movement and energy. The animated character of this landscape is related to Wyeth's strong associations with the area. "Wyeth was enamored of this Brandywine countryside with its rolling fields and wooded hillsides, its streams and its meadows and its farms. He loved its historical associations and its serenity. He once explained during an interview: 'In me has revived a stronger and more vital interest and love for the life that lies about me. I am finding deeper pleasure, deeper meanings in the simple things in the country life here. Being older and more mature, I am realizing that one must go beneath the surface to paint and so it is that my loves, my real affections are reviving.'" (N. C. Wyeth, pp. 63-65)
Working boldly outside of the confines of illustration could have posed potential risks to Wyeth's well-established career, yet his non-illustrative paintings are highly refined and successful. They retained "a curiously consistent style, it has a signature in every line and reach of light that is unmistakably his. His color is rich, warm, and freshly harmonious. He has an extraordinary skill at capturing the quality of light itself, not merely its symbolic representation in the arrangement of planes and their shadows, and he exercised it to the fullest, with an almost offhand delight in his mastery. His compositions are massive, with the play of great bodies, or loom of rock, or rise of tree, or the bulk of something fashioned by builders. There is substance to his forms and reality to his objects." (P. Horgan in D. Allen and D. Allen, Jr., N. C. Wyeth, New York, 1972, p. 11)
At a time when the distinction between an illustrator and an artist seemed insurmountable, N.C. Wyeth gained the courage to fulfill a lifelong desire, and ventured successfully from the realm of illustration into fine art. It is fitting that an artist closely related to a particular area would create some of his finest works there. The strong feelings inspired by the landscape of Chadds Ford gave N.C. Wyeth the ability not only to break away from the realm of commercial art, but to create some of the finest landscapes of the era.
This work is included in the N.C. Wyeth catalogue raisonné database that is being compiled by the Brandywine River Museum and Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania as number 1018.