N. C. Wyeth illustration from "The Last of the Mohicans" (1919): rare, beautifully framed antique


Fight in the Forests
    For The Last of the Mohicans
    Illustrations by N. C. Wyeth
    New York. Charles Scribner's Sons. 1919.

    Image Size: H 9.375” x W 7.00”
    Matted & Framed:  H 16.375” x W 14.00”
    Framed Price: $245.00
    Whiteglove handling and shipping approximately $25.00

By 1917, the year he created his color-filled illustrations for Robin Hood and The Boy’s King Arthur, NCW had completed his move beyond the shadowy city style of his famous teacher, Howard Pyle. Wyeth’s paintings were clear and bright. Yes—he continued to use Pyle’s technique by composing his scenes with diagonals and interesting lines to create the sense of motion. But unlike Pyle, NCW used contrasting light and dark colors to intensify the action he was depicting.

In this thrilling scene, the artist pictures the desperate fight between “Le Renard Subtil” (the Wily Fox) and “Le Gros Serpent” (the Great Snake). The Wily Fox is Magua, principle villain in James Fennimore Cooper’s famous adventure. As for the Great Snake, his name makes him sound like the more evil of the two, but he is the friend of the book’s hero, Natty Bumppo, a.k.a. Hawkeye. The story takes place in the wilds of upstate New York during the bloody French and Indian War.

Magua, a brooding Huron outcast, has sworn to kill English Colonel Munro. The honorable Colonel is the commandant of Fort William Henry, which protects English colonials from Indian raiding parties that sweep down from Canada on Lake Champlain and Lake George. Magua’s hatred for the English commander traces to a humiliating whipping he received at the hands of Colonel Munro for drinking “fire-water” and becoming drunk at his fort.

Le Gros Serpent's English friends know him as Chingachgook, Chief of the Mohicans and father of Uncas. These two fearless naturals are the last of the Mohican tribe. On the outer edge of the civilized world, they stand toe to toe against the malignant French and their Huron allies. The fight between Magua and Chingachgook represents, in other words, the struggle between good and evil. NCW pictures it as a no holds barred fight to the death. The only concession to the world of law and morality here is the club Hawkeye holds poised over his head, which will soon crash down on the rogue who is trying to tip the scales in favor of evil.

Unlike the battle on the ledge at Glens Falls, which NCW intensified with a diagonal composition, this scene is built in a circular form, which reinforced the impression that the struggle it portrays is unending. And so it is.

We have to refer to the book’s cover illustration to determine which is which in this episode. The figure in the buckskin jersey with the murderous grimace is the Wily Fox. The other, whose iron grip stays his deadly dagger, is the Great Snake. Interestingly, he outlives them all!

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