Lot 39
  • 39

N.C. Wyeth 1882-1945

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • N. C. Wyeth
  • Indian Love Call
  • signed N.C. Wyeth, l.r.
  • oil on canvas mounted on masonite
  • 45 by 68 in.
  • (114.3 by 172.7 cm)
  • Painted in 1927.


John B. Williams, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (commissioned directly from the artist)
By descent to the present owner (his granddaughter)


Wilmington, Delaware, Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts, Exhibition of Paintings by Delaware Artists, Members of the Society and Pupils of Howard Pyle, November-December 1927


Very good condition, one small area of flaking in upper right; under UV: a few small spots of inpainting to address flaking, otherwise fine. Please note the correct medium is oil on canvas mounted on plywood.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Douglas Allen, co-author of N.C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals (New York, 1972), writes: "Until recently this major work by N.C. Wyeth was in a private collection enjoyed by the family who commissioned the painting but unknown to the public. Its existence was unrecorded.  Indian Love Call was painted at the midpoint of the artist's career as a painter, illustrator and muralist.  Between 1920 and 1930, N.C. Wyeth was at the height of his powers.  His illustrations for the classics, such as, Robinson Crusoe, Rip Van Winkle, Westward Ho!, The Courtship of Miles Standish, The Scottish Chiefs, The Deerslayer, The Oregon Trail and Drums are ranked among his best.  Added to this formidable library one can count the many colorful action packed magazine illustrations,  corporate advertisements and easel works created during this period.  If this was not enough, N.C. Wyeth executed twenty mural commissions:  The Missouri State Capital, First National Bank of Boston, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Hotel Roosevelt and The National Geographic Society, among others. 

Indian Love Call is a product of this amazing decade in the artist's life.  Around 1925, John B. Williams of Philadelphia commissioned Wyeth to paint a large canvas based on a popular song of the time, "Indian Love Call" music by Rudolf Friml and lyrics by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein.  The song was a particular favorite of Mr. Williams.

The focal point of Indian Love Call is a brave in his birch bark canoe, a canoe as only Wyeth could paint it. As part of the courtship ritual, the brave pipes a haunting song to his love as she approaches from the village.   The rich color filled palette Wyeth uses is the same as that found in his illustrations for Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer.  Strong patterns of sunlight, shadow and reflection in the water play about the brave in his canoe and among the birches, water lilies and iris.  It is a poetic work - the artist's homage to the Native American Indian of the Old Days.

In creating this work N.C. Wyeth returned to his formative years and his passion for the Old West and the Native American.  Indian Love Call is loosely based on his paintings, Spring and Autumn, two of the four works illustrating The Moods, portraits of Indian life and the changing seasons, published in the December 1909 issue of Scribner's Magazine.  In 1911 the Indian canoe theme is revisited once again as the Return of the Hunter in the lost Hotel Utica mural decorations. 

N.C. Wyeth once said, 'Great truth is born of love, and it lies far beyond mere dissection.  Love is not merely emotion.  Man is always greatest in his love and he inevitably follows its fortunes.'"