by Wyeth, N.C.
Demonic eyes shining out of a shadowy tree. A blind man staggering through a moonlit landscape. Disembodied, dark hands rising out of snow. A feral dog with one blue eye. Ambiguous shadows harboring human shapes. These are but a few of the eerie images in this mesmerizing, wondrous book. There are four artists represented here: three generations of Wyeth men--N.C., Andrew, and James--and Howard Pyle, artistically speaking the father of them all. An essay on each artist precedes a generous selection of stunning, full-size, color plates of his work; the essay on Andrew is written by his wife, Betsy. It is Betsy who originally conceived of the exhibition that led to the book. David Michaelis, author of a new biography of N.C., writes, "The intensity of her relationship with all three Wyeths makes her the true linking figure in what has too often been simplified as a male succession."
The simple chronological ordering of the book, from Pyle to his student N.C. Wyeth, to N.C.'s son Andrew, to Andrew's son James, turns out to have a peculiar power. The gaudy, tricky, glorious too-muchness of both Pyle and James make illustrational bookends around the more subtly drawn histrionics of N.C. and Andrew. It might come as a surprise to fans of Andrew's uniquely sublime naturalistic gifts that he possesses an uncanny streak of surrealism, which he couches in his otherwise orderly realism. The book as a whole should give hours and hours of pleasure to Pyle and Wyeth fans of all persuasions and generations. --Peggy Moorman