This painting is included as number L.168 (982) in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of N.C. Wyeth's work compiled by the Brandywine River Museum and Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and to be published February 2008 by Scala Publishers, Ltd.
In 1920, following the financial successes of his partnership with Scribner's to illustrate children's classics, including Treasure Island, N.C. Wyeth bought a rambling old sea captain's house in Port Clyde, Maine at the end of the St. George Peninsula. While Wyeth's coterie of friends included such cultural luminaries as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, he was equally enchanted by the gritty, 'salt of the earth' Maine inhabitants. Wyeth was exposed to a side of Maine that most tourists and summer residents rarely saw and familiarity with the local customs became a part of life. Behind the picturesque, weather-beaten facades of the farmhouses scattered along the St. George Peninsula, lobster fishermen, farmers and their families were often found living in conditions that had changed little since their ancestors had first settled the region prior to the American Revolution. Their particular brand of New England spirit has a long tradition in American art and was a large part of Wyeth's attraction to Maine. William Truettner writes, "moving further north, he gave in to the cultural longings embodied by [Winslow] Homer's paintings. He even named his house [in Port Clyde] Eight Bells, after the painting of the same name by Homer. This painting of two sailors taking the measure of the sun was, as he said, one of 'the productions of men who are dead in earnest, who hate all bunting and shams, and who have taken off their coats in the service of truth and are not ashamed to be found in their shirt sleeves'-just as Wyeth wanted to be viewed" (Picturing Old New England, Image and Memory, Washington, D.C., 1999, pp. 151-153).
While Wyeth's career and subsequent financial success was largely based on his commissions for Scribner's and others, he longed for recognition for his most personal work. During his summers in Port Clyde, he spent his free time painting still lifes, portraits and landscapes and the change of scenery from his Chadds Ford orchard was artistically liberating. In addition to the present work, Port Clyde inspired a number of important landscapes including Deep Cove, Lobsterman (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts), The Doryman (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Herring Cut (Brandywine River Museum). Wyeth was proud of these Maine landscapes and for his first one man show in New York at Macbeth Gallery in 1939, eleven of the twelve paintings exhibited were Port Clyde subjects, and were considered to be the very best of his personal paintings.
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