A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy Birthday to Florence Friedman Minor (If You Were a Penguin). In 1836, Sam Houston becomes president of the Republic of Texas. Read Make Way for Sam Houston by Jean Fritz, illustrated by Elise Primavera and Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett.
- The Metropolitan Opera House opens in New York City on this day in 1883. Read The Dog Who Sang at the Opera by Marshall Izen and Jim West, illustrated by Erika Oller, and Pet of the Met by Lydia and Don Freeman.
- In 1907 the Ringling Brothers Greatest Show on Earth buys Barnum & Bailey circus. Read Ballet of Elephants by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Robert Parker.
- In 1926, J. Gordon Whitehead sucker punched Harry Houdini in the stomach. Read Escape! by Sid Fleischman.
Born on October 22, 1882, in Needham, Massachusetts, Newel Convers Wyeth was raised on a family farm that dated from 1730. As a young man he fell under the tutelage of Howard Pyle, the great childrenâ€™s book illustrator of his era, and became the advocate of the principles of book illustration taught at Pyleâ€™s Brandywine School in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
It did not take Wyeth long to distinguish himself. By the time he was twenty he created a piece of art featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Wyeth settled in the Chadds Ford area and began his career as a very successful magazine illustrator in a time when those talents were much in demand. However, Wyethâ€™s method of working remained that of a painter; he created enormous canvases with oils. His scenes made dramatic use of light and shadow; many were executed with the â€śGolden triangleâ€ť composition so beloved by Pyle.
Beginning in 1911, Wyeth created art for a group of illustrated classics published by Charles Scribnerâ€™s Sons. With ten to fifteen visual pieces per book, Wyeth brought a visual intelligence to the classics (Stevensonâ€™s Treasure Island or Kidnapped) and finished the series with Rawlingsâ€™s The Yearling. In their heyday the Scribner volumes represented the best of the â€śbook beautifulâ€ť for children. They were also sophisticated enough that they became reading for the entire family.
In 1917 Wyeth added his art to Paul Creswickâ€™s Robin Hood.Â In his paintings he brings readers intoÂ a sun-dappled Sherwood Forest and presents a beguiling Maid Marian. Wyeth, who always had an eye for women, knew how to capture their subtlety and seduction very well. In one of his most interesting artistic choices,Â he does not focus the art on the hero. Robin Hood is often to the side or in shadows throughout the book, although in the last spread readers see him at the center of the composition as he lies in his deathbed. Hence, the villages, forests, and people of this medieval storyÂ become its stars.
Anyone seeing original Wyeth work understands immediately that he could have made a career as a fine artistâ€”as his son Andrew did. But he chose instead to be an artist whose work was displayed in classic volumes for children. Generations of families and children owe him a debt of gratitude for that decision and for his productive career.
Hereâ€™s a page from Robin Hood:
“I like not this dark road, Father,” began the dame. “We shall surely come to a brighter place. Robin, do you ride ear to me, and let your bow be at rest. Warrenton, your uncle’s man, told me but yesterday–”
Her voice was suddenly drowned in the noice of a horn, wound so shrilly and distantly as to cause them all to start. Then, in a moment, half a score of lusty rascals appeared, springing out of the earth almost. The men-at-arms were seized, and the little cavalcade brought to a rude halt.
Originally posted October 22, 2011. Updated for .