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  Saturday  September 8  2007    04: 26 PM

book recommendations

This is sort of a N.C. Wyeth festival. N.C. Wyeth was the patriarch of an artistic dynasty. His son Andrew Wyeth being the most famous. N.C. Wyeth was one of the great, if not the greatest, American illustrators of the early 20th century. His most enduring illustrations were for a series of books: Scribner's Illustrated Classics. My dad had a set of these books given to him by his dad. I grew up loving to look at the N.C. Wyeth illustrations. They had a power and magic that was unique. They have a power that has translated into other mediums. What a pirate looks like in Hollywood movies was copied from N.C. Wyeth paintings. Captain Jack Sparrow is a living N.C. Wyeth character. There is another connection. My grandfather knew N.C. Wyeth. My dad used to tell stories of catching rats with Andrew Wyeth in the Wyeth barn at Chadd's Ford. My sister, Madelane, has been going through the microfilm copies of my grandafather's papers that the Smithsonian has. She found a number of letters from N.C. Wyeth to my grandfather giving advice on mural painting and they apparently collaborated on a mural. When I get copies of the letters from Madelane, I will post them.

N. C. Wyeth:
A Biography

by David Michaelis

This is a very interesting story well told. Good enough that I couldn't put it down even when Zoe finished the latest Harry Potter book and passed it on to me. It wasn't that I didn't already know most of the story. A couple of years ago I read The Wyeths: The Letters of N. C. Wyeth, 1901-1945, itself a remarkable book. Aside from my interest in the Wyeth story, reading about his life was also reading about another America. The America of 100 years ago. An America where travel was done by train and horse. It's startling to look at that America and see how far we have come (or sunk as the case may be).

Visions of Adventure:
N. C. Wyeth and the Brandywine Artists

by John Edward Dell, Walt Reed

There a a lot of fine books on the art of N.C. Wyeth. These next three are the best my local library has. N.C. Wyeth was taught by the greatest American Illustrator of his time, Howard Pyle. (Apparently Vincent Van Gogh found inspiration in Howard Pyle's work.) Not only was he a great illustrator at a time that printing technology was starting to be able to capture color paintings at the end of the 19th century but he was a great teacher. He taught a whole generation of illustrators of which N.C. Wyeth was the leader. This book has the best quality reproductions of the three. The color and power of these images just blasts off the page. While most of them are N.C. Wyeth's, there are short sections on Pyle and his other students.

N. C. Wyeth:
The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals

by Douglas Allen, Jr.

The focus is on N.C. Wyeth. Too many black and white reproductions but a lot of text that chronicles N'C' Wyeth's development.

The Wondrous Strange:
The Wyeth Tradition

by Theodor Stephen Bruni

This one covers the generations. It starts with Howard Pyle, then N.C. Wyeth, followed by Andrew, N.C. Wyeth's son, and James, Andrew's son.

I have my dad's N.C. Wyeth illustrated books. They are worn and the illustrations don't have the vibrancy of modern printing but they are some of my most prized possesions. The illustrations in the new editions are beautiful. I think my grandson needs some of those.