What an inspiration. Once again life has given me such a great surprise. My friend and painting buddy, Kathy, suggested that we visit the National Museum of American Illustration. Friday morning we drove down to Newport and arrived just as it was opening. After a few minutes of confusion on just where to park and where the entrance was (lots of warning signs about private property) we finally paid our admission. The National Museum of American Illustration is well worth the $20 ($18 if you happen to be an oldie) fee, if you like Illustration. The Museum is housed in Vernon Court, one of Newports' many fine mansions of an era long past. This is an absolutely stunning place to display so many fine pieces of art. We watched a short movie about illustration and the impact it has had on the public and how, up until very recently, it was not considered art, but rather just a necessary craft.
All of my childhood heroes were represented here. Their images which in all of my books came to life here in this museum in Newport. Howard Pyle, who I learned is the one who gave us images of Pirates for the first time. There are no contemporary images of pirates so it was Howard Pyle who first put them in bandanas, feathered hats and long red sashes, and to this day that is the world vision of pirates.
N.C. Wyeth is very well represented and his work is just outstanding as we all know. There are many many images in this museum that are so familiar and many we saw for the very first time. As a child growing up in Illinois I read many books illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, Treasure Island, Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe and of course The Last of the Mohicans and the Deerslayer. Other books and other illustrators come to mind as well I had several editions of both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but the one that I remember most was the version illustrated by Norman Rockwell. Those images of Tom and Huck are in my memories forever.
Kathy and I also got the 'audio tour' headsets which was a real treat. An audio tour with the headphones make all the difference in the world. You navigate with an iPad and can hear stories of many many of the paintings and the artists as well as a great description of the room of the mansion you are in. As we wandered through the museum so many of these paintings and their artists came to life in my mind, seeing them for the first time all over again and seeing them up close and having the ability to see how they constructed their work. For someone who struggles daily with making images, to see these is such an inspiration.I guess we were there for a bit over two hours and the only complaint I would have is that there is no place you can actually sit and just contemplate the images. Another artist I should mention, one whos' work I have loved for man year is Maxfield Parrish. His ability to convey light is beyond compare. Back in 1979 0n our 9th wedding anniversary, Carol and I stayed in Maxfield Parrishs' house. It had been converted to an Inn with a restaurant. That night we got a knock on the door and were told to leave quickly as the house was on fire. We stool in the yard that cold February night and watched the house burn completely to the ground. Many of Parrishs' work were lost but no one was injured.
And then there was this disturbing image of a 'Viking Princess' - sorry, not my ideal vision of a princess. I think this was done by N.C. Wyeth but really can't recall, and despite a fairly thorough web search I could not find this image anywhere. If you come across this in you web travels please let me know...or I will double check the next time I go to the museum and update this post. This museum is such a nice place to visit and get inspired, and Newport is a great little resort town, with its deep history rooted in the sea. If you are in the area, and if you like great art a visit to the museum would be a worth while stop.