N. C. Wyeth's Men of Concord

On exhibit April 15, 2016 through September 18, 2016


Thoreau Fishing
N. C. Wyeth, 1936
Oil on hardboard, 38½ x 33 inches
Private collection
Illustrations from Men of Concord by Henry David Thoreau; ©1936, and renewed 1964 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Photographer: Tim Barnwell Photography

N. C. Wyeth’s Men of Concord
will bring together for the first time in nearly eighty years the twelve original panels N. C. Wyeth painted for the book, Men of Concord and Some Others, as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1936). The exhibition, on view in the Wallace Kane Gallery, will also include charcoal drawings, watercolors, and additional artwork related to the series, including sketches created by Andrew Wyeth as illustrations for the book. Christine Podmaniczky, Curator of the N. C. Wyeth Collections and Historic Properties at the Brandywine River Museum of Art and author of the catalogue raisonné on the artist, is serving as Consulting Curator.

Drawing upon important research by Consulting Curator Podmaniczky, the exhibition will also examine Wyeth’s working process for the panel paintings. For each work in the series, Wyeth began with exploratory drawings and sketches before developing a final composition in charcoal. The composition drawings were photographed, and glass lantern slides were created. Wyeth projected the slides onto large panels and developed the final painting from the projection. Some of these drawings, charcoal sketches, watercolors, and glass lantern slides will be featured in the exhibition to help visitors understand Wyeth’s artistic process.

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Concord Free Public Library. Concurrently, the William Munroe Special Collections of the Concord Free Public Library will feature From Thoreau’s Seasons to Men of Concord: N. C. Wyeth Inspired in the Library Art Gallery. This exhibition, opening April 15, 2016, will explore N. C. Wyeth’s fascination with Henry David Thoreau—in Wyeth’s words, “the springhead for almost every move I can make”— by tracing the evolution of the book Men of Concord from Wyeth’s initial inspiration for it in 1918 to its long-delayed but triumphant publication in 1936.

Wyeth and Thoreau

Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945) is one of America’s foremost painters and illustrators. He enjoyed a long and celebrated career creating illustrations for magazines and books, most famously Scribner’s “Illustrated Classics” series, as well as murals and other works painted on commission or independently as an outlet for his own artistic inclinations.

While Wyeth’s success as an illustrator is widely known and well-documented, few people are aware of the artist’s longstanding appreciation and admiration of Henry David Thoreau. This fascination ultimately resulted in Men of Concord, published selections from Thoreau’s Journal for which Wyeth painted the twelve oil panels as illustrations.

Thoreau's life and writings greatly influenced and inspired Wyeth, who admired Thoreau’s genius for connecting detailed observations of nature and everyday occurrences with broad yet meaningful philosophical statements. Wyeth also felt a close kinship with Thoreau: both men were from Massachusetts, drew inspiration from the familiarity of their local landscapes, and denounced the dehumanizing impacts of materialism, commercialization, and industrialization on American life. Amazingly, his son, Andrew Wyeth, was born on July 12, Thoreau’s own birthday.

Although it is hard to imagine given his widespread popularity today, Thoreau’s reputation in the early twentieth century was largely that of an amateur naturalist. Seeking to enhance Thoreau’s status as a great American philosopher, Wyeth viewed a commission to illustrate Thoreau’s writings as an opportunity to both fulfill his own deeply felt personal and creative aspirations as well as to elevate Thoreau in the estimation of the wider public.

N. C. Wyeth first put forth the idea of illustrating Thoreau’s writings to the Boston publishing giant Houghton Mifflin in 1918. The final product was not published until 1936, under the title Men of Concord and Some Others, as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau. In his Journal, Thoreau often commented on the people he encountered on his daily journeys. Men of Concord is a selection of these intimate portraits chosen by editor Francis H. Allen, author of the Thoreau Bibliography and co-editor of the Walden Edition of the Complete Works. In addition to N. C. Wyeth’s twelve color illustrations, pen and ink sketches by Wyeth’s son Andrew are found throughout the book.

Men of Concord was a commercial and critical success as well as a personal and artistic triumph for N. C. Wyeth. By imbuing the paintings with the emotions Thoreau had stimulated in him, Wyeth sought to show Thoreau’s humanity—a side of the writer Wyeth felt was underrepresented in much contemporary writing about Thoreau. As Allen wrote in the book’s preface, “The reader will feel that through these pictures he himself has come almost into personal contact with Thoreau and with the men of Concord.”

More than seventy years later, Wyeth’s illustrations for Men of Concord continue to inspire because they offer an intimate, genuine portrait of the Thoreauvian world.

Lead Sponsor

Corporate Sponsors



In Association with the Exhibition


The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. Supported by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the catalogue will contain essays by Consulting Curator Christine Podmaniczky; Leslie Perrin Wilson, Curator of Special Collections at the Concord Free Public Library and organizer of its concurrent exhibition; and David Wood, Curator of the Concord Museum and author of the catalogue, An Observant Eye: The Thoreau Collection at the Concord Museum. The Concord Free Public Library will also publish a complementary catalogue based on their exhibition.

Public Programs

This project provides an unprecedented opportunity to explore N .C. Wyeth’s powerful affinity with Thoreau and Concord as well as his artistic methods for producing the Men of Concord series. Accordingly, the Museum and the Library are developing a rich and diverse menu of public programs to accompany the exhibitions.

Drawing in the Galleries -- Collaboration with The Umbrella

Saturday, April 23, 2016 1:00PM - 5:00 PM

Let the art in the exhibition N. C. Wyeth’s Men of Concord inspire you to connect the visual to the literary. This workshop includes Museum admission and a guided tour. Students will draw from the exhibit and practice rendering skills. After being submersed in the gallery setting, students will refine their pencil sketches into a more expressive piece in preparation for a thoughtful discussion and group critique led by the instructor. This workshop can be used as a jumping off point for the course, Book Illustration, where students will create a visual narrative of images that support a text of their choice.

$60, $20 materials fee, $8 Museum admission for nonmembers, free for Concord Museum members. Class is designed for adults. Register here, or call 978.371.0820. Registration opens March 1.

Painting Night with Paint Corner Art Bar

Thursday, May 5, 2016 6:00PM - 8:00 PM

Become an artist for an evening and create your own masterpiece in easy to follow steps - no experience is needed! The Paint Corner Art Bar will guide your creative efforts during this casual, artsy evening at the Museum with margaritas, wine, beer, and snacks. Ages 21 and up. Register here.

$55 members, $60 nonmembers. A visit to N. C. Wyeth’s Men of Concord is included

Revisiting N. C. Wyeth's 'Walden Pond Revisited'

Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 7:00PM - 8:00PM

In addition to the illustrations for Men of Concord, N. C. Wyeth created another homage to Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond Revisited, in 1932/33. Christine Podmaniczky, Consulting Curator for the special exhibition N. C. Wyeth’s Men of Concord, discusses this painting as it relates to canvases Wyeth painted between the late 1920s to the late 1930s, all of which explored the sense of place essential to both the artist and Thoreau. 

Christine Podmaniczky is Curator of N. C. Wyeth Collections at the Brandywine River Museum of Art (BRMA) and author of the catalogue raisonné on the artist.

Free and open to the public. Reserve a space online or call 978-369-9763, ext. 216.

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World

Sunday, May 22, 2016 2:00PM-3:00PM

Andrea Wulf reveals in her new book the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today. Though almost forgotten today, his name lingers everywhere from the Humboldt Current to the Humboldt penguin. An intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age, his restless life was packed with adventure and discovery. He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth, and Goethe but also politicians such as Jefferson. Wulf argues that it was Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of preservation and that shaped Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. In The Invention of Nature, Wulf brings this lost hero to science and the forgotten father of environmentalism back to life.

$10 Concord Museum Members, $15 Non-members. Register online by clicking here, or call 978-369-9763 ext. 216. A book signing will follow the lecture.


Men of Concord Gallery Talks

Take a closer look at the artworks in N. C. Wyeth's Men of Concord with Concord Museum Curator David Wood in this 20-minute talk. Included with Museum admission; Members free.
  • Thursday, May 26, 2:00PM
  • Sunday, June 19, 11:00 AM
  • Monday, July 18, 2:00 PM
  • Friday, August 12 11:00AM
  • Saturday, September 10 2:00PM

Women of Concord

Editor, storeowner, social justice activist, artist, teacher, factory worker, author, farmer, mother, philanthropist…All describe the women of Concord – some famous, some almost invisible – featured in this accompanying exhibition. Through 35 objects that women of Concord made, wore, or used in their homes and workplace, or through portraits of them – carefully preserved by succeeding generations and now by the Concord Museum – it is possible to create meaning from the lives of ordinary citizens as well as prominent residents. On view at the Concord Museum beginning May 13, 2016.

Men of Concord
Cover illustration
N. C. Wyeth, 1936
Oil on hardboard, 38¾ x 32 inches
Brandywine River Museum of Art, Gift of Amanda K. Berls, 1980

Illustrations from Men of Concord by Henry David Thoreau; ©1936, and renewed 1964 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Photographer: Rick Echelmeyer