Sunday Spotlight: N. C. Wyeth

Posted on March 27, 2016 By

N.C. Wyeth! Masterly, moody, and well-monikered!

N.C. Wyeth

Graphic by Tee LaFrance Todd – © 2016 Curionomastics

As I was growing up, I have wanted to be so many things…okay, that hasn’t changed one bit. One of the careers that always stood out to me was illustration and in fact, I wrote and illustrated my own middle grade novel way back in my undergrad years. Obviously, then, one of the most illustrious American illustrators to bring text to life in pictures caught my attention, as did his unique name.


A student of Howard Pyle’s, N.C. Wyeth rapidly rose to fame in the early 1900s as an illustrator of classics, particularly adventures. He painted pictures for the novels of Robert Louis Stevenson, James Fenimore Cooper, and Jules Verne. In addition, he also sought to be a revered ‘fine artist,’ though his illustrations are some of the finest I have seen. Sadly, Wyeth’s car was struck by a train when he was out driving with his grandson and both of them were killed. He left behind a legacy of artists and engineers among his descendants, including the renowned landscape painter, Andrew Wyeth.


N.C.’s Trivia Trio:Wyeth bio

  1. His biography was written in 1998 by David Michaelis that shed light on some mysterious parts of his life, including his depression, a possible affair, and his death.
  2. He was born in 1882, the same year as fellow artiste extraordinaire, Edmund Dulac
  3. Besides illustrating classics and painting murals, this Renaissance man even painted maps for the National Geographic Society.



Initialers abound throughout history, but N.C. is a pretty unique set, unless you count the state of North Carolina. Paired with his surname, the N and the C balance out the humming and hissing sounds very well. Still, his original names, Newell and Convers, are even more appealing.

Newell, sometimes spelled Niewheall, is an Old English name that means ‘from the new hall,’ and is sometimes referred to as a variation of Neville. Originally an occupational or place surname, it traversed into masculine first name status, though it has never been very popular. This is surprising considering it’s not far off from Neil and Noel.

Convers is most likely a surname that originated from someone who converted to a religious way of life. From the Middle English or Old French, it is usually spelled Converse.

Wyeth has become an esteemed name among the art crowd in the U.S., but it is originally a variation of the topographical surname Wythe. Meaning ‘someone who lived by a willow tree,’ Wyeth couldn’t be a better fit for N.C. who once claimed that “Those great, old trees that I learned to know so well last summer mean more to me than most human beings. I could just hug them! And I will!”


Who are some of your favorite illustrators? Do they have names as unique as N.C.?

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  1. Lori says:

    Thanks Tee – great idea, LOVE Curionomastics!

  2. I love Wyeth’s name! Unfortunately, although I do know several books/series with illustrations that I love, the only one currently coming to mind is Tony DiTerlizzi of the Spiderwick Chronicles. I love his faery depictions so much!

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