The oil on panel Ramona by Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945), better known as N.C. Wyeth, was produced as a frontispiece illustration for the 1939 edition of Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel of the same name.
Wyeth, renowned for his ability to increase the drama and character development of accompanying text through his work, contributed four illustrations to the novel, only one other of which has been located. This painting was likely given by the publishers Little, Brown and Company to an editor or the author’s estate, but its location was unknown until it was found by a woman looking for frames at a Manchester, New Hampshire thrift store.
She hung it in her house for several years before she posted images of it on Facebook. An art curator from Maine drove several hours to see the piece in person, recognizing it as one of the Ramona illustrations that had been regarded as “lost.”
Christine B. Podmaniczky, curator of the Brandywine Museum of Art and author of N.C. Wyeth’s catalogue raisonné, has since authenticated the work.
After creating a published cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post at the tender age of 20, N.C. Wyeth forged a successful career as an illustrator, working regularly for publishers of periodicals and novels.
Jackson’s novel tells the story of a half-Scottish, half-Native American orphan living in Southern California after the Mexican-American War. In this image, Wyeth portrays the tension between Ramona and her rigid and overbearing foster mother, Señora Moreno. The frame on this painting seems to be of the artist’s choice. The basic molding was one he favored to protect the edges and corners of his illustrative paintings when sent by train from his Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, studio to publishers in Philadelphia or New York.