Friday, February 29, 2008


Art by N.C. Wyeth hanging outside the boardroom of a prominent D.C. institution.

I have a friend who works for a leading conversation and research organization here in Washington, D.C. At a party a few months ago, she mentioned that they have hanging in their corporate headquarters several original canvasses by the artist N.C. Wyeth. I just about hyperventilated with glee.

I didn't get the titles of these paintings, but I believe this one depicts Columbus sailing to the New World.

If you grew up reading the Scribner Illustrated Classic of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and Kidnapped!, you've seen the illustrations of N.C. Wyeth. And, if you've visited any museum of cultural significance in the United States, you've likely also seen paintings by Andrew Wyeth, N.C.'s son. Andrew's most recognized painting is Christina's World.

Wyeth's depiction of the Eastern Hemisphere.
A companion map of the Western Hemisphere hangs on the other side of the doors to the board room.

Getting back to N.C., tucked into the quiet headquarters of this prominent organization reside several N.C. Wyeth paintings that are simply stunning. My aforementioned friend was gracious enough to give me, my mom, and a friend of hers a personal tour of the paintings earlier this week.

N.C. Wyeth produced many a seafaring, swash-buckling buccaneer painting. This one is in the library.

According to my friend, N.C. Wyeth was a good friend of the founder of the conversation and research organization and said friend would occasionally pose as a pirate for N.C. in some of his paintings! That's also how they ended up with these wonderful treasures.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 2/08


NG said...

I learned something today. I'm a big fan of Andrew Wyeth and had never heard of N.C. before. I had no idea he an the Treasure Island illustrator were son and father until now. Color me uninformed.

Debi said...

A personal tour! Oh, you lucky girl. I love NC and would have hyperventilated beside you! My introduction to him was from his illustrations to The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, a book I read that to my kids when they were young.

A bit of serendipity here: last weekend I watched the movie version (with Gregory Peck, 1940s) and got happy all over again recognizing when the director imitated N.C.'s illustrations.

In the southwest, we are also very familiar with Wyeth's daughter, Henrietta.

Thank you for sharing these with us. It's been a thrill.

Bobbie said...

I love seeing these illustrations as huge paintings. I always saw them as pages in a book. He was awesome as an artist and produced many beloved images.

I loved to read when I was a child, and still do. These books were to me meat and bread, but I must admit I was sometimes disappointed that the scenes illustrated were not the ones that I would have chosen. hehe.

As Debi indicated I grew up knowing Henriette Wyeth through her husband Peter Hurd, who painted Lyndon Johnson's presidential portrait (which he promptly declared it the ugliest thing he ever saw). Some of her works are found at the Roswell Museum and Art Center in Roswell, New Mexico, my home town.

D.C. Confidential said...

NG: Yep, true story. As for being uninformed, I'll join you. Debi and Bobbie have just educated me re: Henrietta Wyeth and Peter Hurd. I had no idea about them. Who knew?

Debi: I just looked up Henrietta Wyeth and Peter Hurd. I had no idea! One of these days, I'm going to have to go to their family home in Chadds Ford, PA. I think a road trip is in order...

Bobbie: Aren't books the best? When I'm not blogging, looking for a job, or cleaning house, I'm reading. It's the best use of time I can think of. Thank you for the information both you and Debi provided on Henrietta Wyeth and Peter Hurd. I had no idea. I love learning new stuff! Thanks!

Dusty Lens said...

Well, now I know! I never heard of him before, but I now know his work through the books that you mentiond. Who could not be enthralled with Treasure Island or Kidnapped? Congrats on your personal art tour.

Lisa Sarsfield said...

Im back from my enforced blogging drought and wow, treasures is right! These paintings are wonderful. I have never seen them before and I especially love the map one and the bottom pirate.
One question, why are they so close to the top of the wall?

b.c. said...

great great post, i love it-but i was especially intrigued by the "conversation and research organization" wow, i'd love to find out more about their work... back to these paintings, these are really awesome and it's nice that they are so accessible

Cowbark said...

That's awesome! I work for a big corporation and we have 4 NC Wyeth's hanging in the lobby of our building. They were commissioned by one of or predecessor companies back in the day. My bro-in-law was FREAKING OUT when he came to meet me after work when he was in town and saw them. They're pretty impressive - I'll have to see if I can get some decent pictures of them sometime and post to Boston Daily Photo for you.

D.C. Confidential said...

DL: Sheds a whole new and fun light on those classics you grew up reading, doesn't it?

Lisa: They're great paintings, aren't they? They're so close to the ceiling, because they aren't hanging in a museum like setting. The bottom one of the pirates is actually at the reference librarian's desk! Seems a shame, doesn't it, that they are exhibited in a better and more public setting.

B.C.: Thank you! Actually, I misspoke. What I should have said was "leading exploration, research, and conservation organization." The society (that should be a hint) actually started as an academic journal for explorers... (I'm just not outright naming the institution because the paintings aren't in a public space and I'd hate for some reader to go to said leading ERC and ask to see them only to be turned away.)

Cowbark: Yes! Please do take pictures of the Wyeths hanging in your office building! I'd love to see them.

The Artful Eye said...

N.C. Wyeth is amazing. How lucky you were to get a glimpse at this private collection.

Last September I was in Newport, RI and I went to the The National Museum of American Illustration and there was a great body of his work.

D.C. Confidential said...

AE: That must have been an amazing museum! My understanding is, there's a great collection of Wyeth works in Maine, too.