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. "Wyeth's versatility 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 apparent in many of his paintings for the rest of his life." (D. Allen and D. Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, p. 71)
Born in Needham, Massachusetts, in 1882, Wyeth began studying art at a young age. His mother encouraged him to enroll in several art schools--Mechanics Art School in Boston, Massachusetts Normal Arts School, and the Eric Pape School of Art in Boston--before being accepted into Howard Pyle's School of Illustration in Wilmington, Delaware in 1902. "After only one and a half years of Pyle's instruction, Wyeth was appearing in national magazines such as Collier's, Harpers, Scribner's and others. His first published illustration of a bronco and rider appeared in February 1903 on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post." (J.E. Dell, ed., Visions of Adventure: N.C. Wyeth and the Brandywine Artists, New York, 2000, p. 114)
Wyeth's finest works, whether illustrations or not, include figures in a landscape. In The Duck Hunt, Wyeth has created a horizontal composition that emphasizes the expansiveness of the great outdoors. The river and the sky meet at a low horizon line, and they seem to go on forever. In the foreground, the hunter and his young son have just returned to shore. Despite the nature of the subject, an overwhelming sense of calm and quiet pervades The Duck Hunt. The palette that Wyeth selected reflects his intimate knowledge of the outdoors, with the jewel-like blue water, the bold oranges and greens of the duck feathers, and the pale pinks and blues of the misty morning sky. Wyeth's love of nature is apparent in this magnificent depiction of the landscape.
This painting is included in the N.C. Wyeth catalogue raisonné database that is being compiled by the Brandywine River Museum and Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.