An American Vision

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

AN AMERICAN VISION offers quality reproductions of art by three renowned American painters from the Wyeth family, N.C. (1882-1945), Andrew (b. 1917), and James (b. 1946). Following an introductory essay by James Duff, the book devotes a section to each artist.

N.C. Wyeth is known primarily for his illustrations of children’s classics such as ROBIN HOOD and TREASURE ISLAND. His richly colored paintings, often depicting intense action, capture the narratives’ less obvious elements. Most reproductions of his work date from 1905 to 1920, though his productive career continued until his death. Like his two Wyeth successors, he experimented with varied techniques and approaches.

Andrew, whose essay on his father resembles a memoir and tribute, chose to depict different themes through different artistic techniques. He preferred watercolor, tempera, and drybrush to his father’s oils, and as subjects he chose landscapes, architecture and interior scenes of New England life. His coloration is subdued, showing a preference for neutrals, reds and yellows. His human subjects represent parts of a larger whole, belonging to a place yet revealing their own inner strength.

James Wyeth continues the questing and experimenting of his grandfather and father, though he chooses oils, often with impasto, and even lithography. Sharing their careful attention to detail, he depicts animals and human beings for themselves, not as parts of larger settings.

Despite obvious differences, the Wyeths reveal numerous similarities. All three, for example, are dedicated to the craft of drawing based upon careful observation. All three rely on the same familiar natural settings, particularly Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and coastal Maine. They also reveal similar color techniques that enhance unity. In N.C. Wyeth’s Indian painting “In the Crystal Depths,” the brown tones of cliffs, their reflection in water, and a canoe extend to the seated Indian. In Andrew’s “Trodden Weed,” yellow and brown tones in the grass and sand extend to the walker’s leather boots. In James Wyeth’s “And Then into the Deep Gorge,” golden light in the background reflects on the buggy wheels, illuminates a seated woman’s hair, and creates golden flecks on two dappled horses.