I have previously noted my affection for the golden-age American illustrator Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945). His luminous interpretations of boys’ adventure novels from Treasure Island to The Last of the Mohicans have been imprinted on the imagination of several generations.
Wyeth did his best work illustrating Medieval romances, which is not surprising given that his mentor Howard Pyle specialized in the genre. In 1917 Wyeth followed up his breakthrough edition of Treasure Island with a subject previously popularized by Pyle himself: the adventures of Robin Hood.
The same year Wyeth tackled the great chivalric subject: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The Boy’s King Arthur was a loose adaptation of Malory by the American poet Sidney Lanier, first published in 1880.
Today the book is mostly remembered for Wyeth’s illustrations. One can see the lingering influence of the Pre-Raphaelite artists on Wyeth via the Brandywine School where Pyle taught.
In 1922 Wyeth illustrated The Legends of Charlemagne, one of three titles written in the 1850s and 1860s by Thomas Bulfinch, later compiled as Bulfinch’s Mythology. The Legends of Charlemagne collects tales of the twelve Paladins.
The majority of the stories are drawn from the sixteenth century Italian epic Orlando Furioso, which includes many fantastic elements: a sea monster and flying horse among them.