This one’s for my friend Deuce Richardson, who is a tireless advocate for the art of N.C. Wyeth.
I was perusing the web Saturday evening looking for a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Master of Ballantrae, which I’ve never read. Gonna remedy that this winter. You can’t look up RLS without immediately kicking up the art of N.C Wyeth, who created the definitive images of Stevenson’s classics, Treasure Island and Kidnapped.
Of course, that set me off down the trail, feasting my eyes once again on Wyeth’s gorgeous, muscular depictions of pirates and frontiersmen. It occurred to me that Wyeth was as important as anyone in lighting the fire of Frontier Partisans. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t carry those images in my mind’s eye. I was very young when I first saw his work for Treasure Island and Last of the Mohicans — I absorbed the art long before I read the books. I loved Treasure Island, but I have to admit that I was profoundly disappointed that Cooper’s books didn’t live up to the pictures they inspired.
Then and still, Wyeth’s illustrations beckon toward adventure, holding out the promise that life can be vivid — full of menace (Wyeth’s men are hard-faced, dangerous characters), full of natural beauty, full of action, full of LIFE.
To this day, I want to stay at the Admiral Benbow Inn, explore the forests of upstate New York, sail on the Hispaniola — and that’s thanks to N.C. Wyeth. The artists I most enjoy and admire all are walking the trail he blazed. In a way, you could say that N.C. Wyeth gave me my world.