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N.C. WYETH (1882-1945)

 
N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in. N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in. N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in. N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in. N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in. N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in. N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in. N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in. N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in. N.C. WYETH - The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 - oil on canvas - 103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in.
The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 16211941103 x 160 x 2 1/4 in.(261.62 x 406.4 x 5.72 cm) oil on canvas
Provenance
MetLife, Inc. Corporate Collection (Commissioned for New York offices)
Heather James Fine Art, New York
Exhibition
New York, NY, 1985, no. 14, as "Return of the Mayflower"
Literature
"The Days of the Pilgrims Live Again in Our Murals," The Home Office (publication of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.), vol. 23, no. 7 (Dec. 1941), ps. 8-9; N. C. Wyeth, Income Tax Notes for 1941 (unpublished, Brandywine River Museum Library)
Robert San Souci, N. C. Wyeth's Pilgrims (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 1991), illus. on title page and again in text (unpaginated
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Christine B. Podmaniczky, N. C. Wyeth, A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings (London: Scala, 2008), M.70, p. 630
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“I hope the time will never come when I shall feel satisfied. To reach the goal of one’s ambitions must be tragic.” – N.C. Wyeth

History

Before there was television and of a time when film was still in its infancy, N. C. Wyeth’s illustrations electrified the stories he visually shaped and annotated. As a young reader of “Treasure Island,” who can deny the urgency to read on to the next glossy illustration? Or, in excited anticipation, thumb through the pages repeatedly to the pictures ahead, so alive and vivid and full of bravado?  

In 1939, The Metropolitan Life Company offered Wyeth a commission of a different sort; a series of canvas murals that would rely less on bravado perhaps, but instead, a deep sense of time and place. They would offer an energetic and grand vision and express the spirit of national pride by celebrating the strong values that express what it means to be American. Wyeth was thrilled. The fourteen mural panels he agreed to produce would bring the world of Pilgrims to glowing life and “serve as a graphic and dramatic expression of the spirit of New England” (Douglas Allen, et al., N. C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations, and Murals, pg. 169).  Wyeth, an artist of unparalleled skill and fully invested in the authenticity of the characters that populate his narratives, relished the opportunity to convey the pride he felt toward his ancestral past.

“The romance of early colonization, especially that of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, had always excited me. My ancestor, Nicholas Wyeth, came from Wales to Massachusetts in 1647. The spirit of early days on the Massachusetts coast was an oft-discussed subject in my home. I was born in Needham, not far from the town of Plymouth, to which I made many pilgrimages during my boyhood, spending thrilling days in and around that historic territory. With this as a background, it was natural that in my mind and heart should fly to Plymouth and to the Pilgrims as a fitting subject for a series of New England paintings. If then, the warmth and appeal of these paintings is apparent to those who study them, it is principally because they are, in some related way, a statement of my own life and heritage.” (Douglas Allen, et al., N. C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, pg. 171)

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“To elevate the little into the great is genius.” – N.C. Wyeth

MARKET INSIGHTS

  • NC Wyeth AMR
  • The graph prepared by Art Market Research shows that since 1976, paintings by N.C. Wyeth have increased at a 13.4% annual rate of return.
  • The market graph shows significant growth in the market since 2010, and a sharp increase as recently as 2020.
  • The record price for N.C. Wyeth at auction was set in 2018 when Portrait of a Farmer sold for nearly $6M. That piece was created just two years after the present works, though on a significantly smaller scale. No N.C. Wyeth paintings on this monumental scale have appeared at auction.

Top Results at Auction

Tempera on Renaissance panel, 40 x 60 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 23 May 2018.

"Portrait of a Farmer (Pennsylvania Farmer)" (1943) sold for $5,985,900 USD.

Tempera on Renaissance panel, 40 x 60 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 23 May 2018.
Oil on canvas, 43 x 30 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 22 November 2016.

"Hands Up" (1906) sold for $4,951,500 USD.

Oil on canvas, 43 x 30 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 22 November 2016.
Oil on canvas, 46 x 69 1/4 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 28 October 2020.

"Indian Love Call" (1927) sold for $3,510,000 USD.

Oil on canvas, 46 x 69 1/4 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 28 October 2020.

Paintings in Museum Collections

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

“The Lobsterman (The Doryman)” (1944), egg tempera on wood, 23 1/4 x 47 1/4 in.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania

“The Trial of the Bow” (1929), oil on canvas, 58 × 45 3/4 × 2 1/4 in.

Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

“Island Funeral” (1939), egg tempera and oil on hardboard, 44 1/2 x 52 3/8 in.

Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts

“They Took Their Wives with Them on their Cruises” (c. 1938), oil on board, 34 x 24 in.

Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma

“The Water Burial” (1906), oil on canvas, 24 x 38 in.

About The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621

  • Wyeth_install

It was a heartfelt, but anxious farewell when the Mayflower departed on April 5, 1621. The Pilgrims’ first winter had been impenitent, brutal, and had cost half their ranks to pneumonia, skirmishes with natives, and sundry maladies. Yet when the ship’s captain offered to take anyone back to England, not a single Pilgrim accepted. The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 addresses that narrative; a simple, elegant moment of reflective quietude, the figures grouped in relationship and attitude, standing as if pillars of resolve facing east across a great expanse filled with the emptiness of uncertainty. According to N. C. Wyeth expert Douglas Allen, the artist chose a dramatic moment in Longfellow’s poem that memorializes the realization these ardent Pilgrims were entirely dependent upon their wits and hard labor before the arrival of another supply ship. “Sun-illuminated and white, on the eastern verge of the ocean gleamed the departing sail, like a marble slab in a graveyard; buried beneath it lay forever all hope of escaping.” The mural, based on a preliminary sketch, and a small oil study was likely painted in 1941 and among the earliest panels installed in the North Building of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company on Madison Avenue.

“If you paint a man leaning over your own back must ache.” – N.C. Wyeth

Image Gallery

Additional Resources

"My Father" by Andrew Wyeth

Read this biography of N.C. Wyeth written by Andrew Wyeth, celebrated painter and N.C. Wyeth’s son.

The N.C. Wyeth House & Studio

Virtually tour the artist’s home and studio in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania through this video from the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Preparatory Drawing

See the study N.C. Wyeth drew as part of his preparation to paint “The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621.”

Authentication

 

See the inclusion of The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621 in Christine B. Podmaniczky’s catalog raisonne, the online catalogue raisonne, and in Robert San Souci’s book N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims.

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