PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF FRANK E. FOWLER
The present work is an illustration for Charles Nordhoff's and James Norman Hall’s The Bounty Trilogy, a thrilling and dramatic account of the mutiny that took place on the HMS Bounty during its voyage from Portsmouth, England to Tahiti. In April 1789, a group of disaffected crewmen led by Fletcher Christian seized control of the ship from their captain Lieutenant Williams Bligh and set him and eighteen others adrift in the middle of the South Pacific. Published in Boston by Little, Brown and Company, the trilogy is comprised of three volumes including Men Against the Sea, Pitcairn’s Island and Mutiny on the Bounty, each of which is narrated from a different point of view. Wyeth produced thirteen illustrations for the trilogy.
Wyeth began experimenting with gessoed panel late in his career. The precision of this support enabled him to render scenes with singular detail and extraordinary clarity, as The Chief Raised His Musket and Fired demonstrates. He successfully manipulates the light and color to capture the dramatic moment of Fletcher Christian’s execution. Inspired by his imagination, Wyeth’s illustrations have the power to transport the viewer into the story.
As the artist himself said, “Convincing illustration must ring true to life. The characters should be of flesh and blood, not puppets who strike attitudes for the sake of composition, or manikins which serve as drapes for clothes, however effective the costumes in themselves may be” (Douglas Allen and Douglas Allen, Jr., N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals, New York, 1972, p. 128). Indeed, The Chief Raised His Musket and Fired displays N.C. Wyeth’s ability to infuse a scene with drama and emotion, bringing the story to life.
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