Known initially for his depictions of cowboys, pioneers and Native Americans from the Old West, Newell Convers Wyeth started imaging medieval tales of romance and adventure in the 1910s. In 1917, he executed 17 works for the latest edition of Sidney Lanier’s The Boy’s King Arthur. This version printed with Wyeth’s illustrations became an instant classic and led to numerous other commissions for the artist, including Robinson Crusoe, Last of the Mohicans, and Robin Hood.
“This auction may be considered a syllabus on the history of Golden Age Illustration,” Heritage Auctions Vice President and American Art Director Aviva Lehmann said. “Alongside masterworks by blue-chip artists N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and Joseph Christian Leyendecker, we also offer prime examples by lesser-known geniuses from this watershed moment of American Art--John Falter, Francis Xavier Leyendecker, Amos Sewell and more. This auction gives both seasoned and new collectors a rare opportunity to acquire fabulous examples of American Illustration at virtually every price point.”
Newell Convers Wyeth "I am Sir Launcelot du Lake, King Ban's son of Benwick, and knight of the Round Table," The Boy's King Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory's History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table interior book illustration, 1917 (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000) is a magnificent illustration depicting the pivotal moment at which, after hours of battle, Sir Launcelot reveals his identity to Sir Turquine, thereby necessitating a fight to the death. Wyeth, who studied in the early 1900s with Howard Pyle, sought historical authenticity and collected props and costumes like the medieval armor seen here. This particular illustration, with its heightened emotion and Neo-Impressionist palette and brushwork, is a true star of the Andrew J. Sordoni Collection, 12 highlights of which are featured in this auction. The Sordoni Collection, one of the finest of Illustration Art, comes the Sordoni family and their beloved Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Also from the Sordoni Collection is a second masterwork from Newell Convers Wyeth. "Mr. Cassidy ... Saw a Crimson Rider Sweep Down Upon Him ... Heralded by a Blazing .41," Bar-20 Range Yards, Part VII - Cassidy at Cactus, The Outing Magazine interior illustration, December 1906 (estimate: $700,000-1,000,000) harkens back to Wyeth’s roots painting cowboys and Western pioneers and is significant as one of the earliest illustrations of the story of Hopalong Cassidy, the fictional cowboy created in 1904 by author Clarence E. Mulford. Here, vigilante Slim Travennes, having been caught horse rustling, desperately wields his .41-caliber pistol and flees town on horseback as Cassidy and his Bar-20 gang pursue not far behind. A 20th-century cultural icon, Hopalong Cassidy is one of collector Andrew Sordoni’s favorite subjects, variously appearing in this auction in paintings by Maynard Dixon, Frank Schoonover, and George Gross.