N.C. Wyeth's career flourished during what is today known as "the golden age of illustration." From the time his first drawing was published on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1903 until his death in 1945, the demand for and success of Wyeth's work was continuous and strong. In 1911, Wyeth received an important commission from Charles Scribner & Sons to illustrate Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island gained Wyeth national recognition and he went on to illustrate a great number of other stories for Scribner Illustrated Classics, including Kidnapped and David Balfour also by Stevenson, as well as works for other publishers.
As such, it is fitting that the National Association of Book Publishers commissioned N.C. Wyeth to create an image for a poster promoting Children's Book Week, a campaign established in 1919 by educators, booksellers and librarians to encourage literacy among children. Wyeth, who had already captured children's imaginations with his illustrations for the Scribner's classics, painted Romance of Adventure for the November 1928 book week.
The resulting poster, Books: Romance, History, Travel features an explorer posed against the side of his vessel. Behind him, a boldly colored tall ship with flags and sails caught in the wind rocks violently forward in the thrust of a big wave. The explorer, with feathers in his cap, a spy glass in his hand and the decorated hilt of his sword peering from behind his back, is unfazed by the rough seas. Instead, this stoic, dark and swarthy, mustachioed explorer gazes into the distance, fierce and determined.
Douglas Allen writes of Wyeth's work: "there is a heroic treatment of anatomy, for example, that makes a Wyeth masculine type so gloriously strong and virile-- you look for a new discovery and technique--then that romance of color, of wave, of cloud-- of those authentic, yet fascinating ships that toss or float over seas, fabulously stormy or credibly calm" (N.C. Wyeth, p. 140).
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