Captain Smollet Defies the Mutineers (1911) by N. C. Wyeth

Curator's Choice tells the stories behind prized objects and artifacts from the collections of historical organizations and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

Newel Convers Wyeth (1882-1945) – known worldwide simply as N. C. Wyeth – was one of the best loved illustrators of this century. Patriarch of one of the nation’s most famous artistic dynasties, his name is synonymous with the Brandywine Valley of southeastern Pennsylvania and America’s golden age of illustration.

Wyeth studied under master illustrator Howard Pyle (1853-1911) at his school of art in Wilmington, Delaware, after which he embarked on a successful career illustrating magazines and, later, books. His illustrations appeared in numerous periodicals, including The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s Weekly, The Delineator, The Metropolitan, McClure’s Magazine, and Scribner’s Magazine.

It was for Charles Scribner’s Sons that he accepted a commission to illustrate Treasure Island, written by Scottish poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894). Wyeth created seventeen works of art for the popular children’s classic. The Treasure Island commission was the first of a Scribner Illustrated Classic series and the beginning of Wyeth’s thirty-year association with book illustration. The edition was immensely successful, and led to his illustration of a number of great books.

A painting that served as one of the illustrations of Treasure Island has recently been acquired by the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Delaware County. Wyeth painted Captain Smollet Defies the Mutineers during the summer of 1911 in a barn in Chadds Ford which he rented and converted to a studio while his own spacious studio was being built with proceeds of the Treasure Island commission.

The museum acquired Captain Smollet Defies the Mutineers and a companion piece for the 1911 edition of Treasure Island, The Attack on the Block House, with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Bayard Sharp. The paintings join the institution’s extensive holdings of N. C. Wyeth’s illustrations for children’s classics, including several original works for Treasure Island.

Upon publication, Captain Smollet Defies the Mutineers became the property of Charles Scribner’s Sons and was sold through the publishing company’s retail store in New York. It was reunited with The Attack on the Block House in a private collection in the early 1990s before being acquired by the Brandywine River Museum.

During the past three years, restoration of N. C. Wyeth’s land, studio, house, and barn has been a major project of the Brandywine River Museum. Conservators, curators, and researchers have worked to make the studio and related properties appear as they did in the artist’s day. The studio has recently been opened for tours.

The Brandywine River Museum, opened in 1971, is devoted to American art, with a primary emphasis on the artists and art of the Brandywine Valley, including land­scape, illustration, and still life painting. The museum is open daily, except Christmas Day, from 9:30 A. M. to 4:30 PM.

To obtain additional information, write: Brandywine River Museum, P. O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; or telephone (610) 388-2700. Individuals with disabilities who need special assistance or accommodation should telephone the museum in advance to discuss their needs. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired who wish to contact a hearing person via Text Telephone may use the PA Relay Center at (800) 654-5984.