Among the most noteworthy illustrators this country has ever produced, N.C. Wyeth possessed a formidable aesthetic sensibility that he passed to his many descendants, forming an esteemed artistic dynasty which carries on to this day. Wyeth’s style, honed by early work at the Saturday Evening Post and Scribner’s, demonstrates his keen awareness of the revealing gesture, allowing readers to instantly grasp the essence of a scene. He was particularly known for dramatizing characters with the use of long shadows—a technique that was said to have influenced the epic moviemaking style of the 1940s.
This work is the cover art for The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come by John Fox, which follows the story of an orphan in Kentucky shortly before the onset of the Civil War. The painting depicts a boy in a coonskin cap holding a hunting rifle in one hand as he greets his faithful dog with the other. The two are framed by lush trees and pink flowering shrubbery with rolling hills and a stream in the background. The dog’s paws rest on the boy’s chest in a gesture of love and trust, highlighting Wyeth’s ability to convey both action and character through his art.