N. C. Wyeth illustration from "Rip Van Winkle" (1921): rare, beautifully framed antique


"Though these folks were evidently amusing themselves,
    they maintained the gravest faces"
  For Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
    Illustrations by N. C. Wyeth
    Philadelphia. David McKay Company. 1921.
    Image Size: H 10.00” x W 6.875”
    Matted & Framed:  H 17.00” x W 13.875”
    Framed Price: $255.00
ackaging and shipping approximately $25.00


Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle was first published in 1819. Rip Van Winkle in “a little village of great antiquity” at the foot of the Kattskill Mountains many miles up the Hudson River from New York City. It is said that the author, having suffered a bankruptcy the year before he wrote his famous story, was living at the time in Kinderhook where was employed as a tutor by one the town’s leading families. He later admitted to friend that "when I wrote the story, I had never been on the Catskills."

Whether N. C. Wyeth was ever “on the Catskills” I do not know, but he was not there when he painted his celebrated illustrations for David McKay in the summer of 1921. Wyeth biographer David Michaelis notes that by 1918, NCW had become unhappy with his financial arrangement with Scribners. “When the David McKay Company offered him Rip Van Winkle with his originals back, and then the Cosmopolitan Book Company asked for Robinson Crusoe with an advance on royalties plus originals back, he realized that he had been given a ‘club to hold over the Scribner Co.” [Michaelis. N. C. Wyeth. 272.]

NCW painted his Rip Van Winkle illustrations while visiting Needham, Massachusetts, his home town, in the summer of 1921. Being far from what Washington Irving described as these “fairy mountains” did not hamper the artist, however. When the book appeared later that year, one reviewer wrote: “Perhaps even more than Washington Irving’s tale, the pictures tell the weird swiftness of human life . . . no other illustrator ever achieved such a poignant mingling of psychological truth and natural mystery.” [Michaelis. 282.] As accolades poured in, NCW said this in a letter to a friend: “If it wasn’t that I was enabled to pour snatches of sunshine and shadow, storm or moonshine, into my [illustrations] I could never stood the strain.”

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