Newell Convers Wyeth was born on October 22, 1882, in Needham, Massachusetts. Growing up on a farm, he developed a deep love of nature. His mother, the daughter of Swiss immigrants, encouraged his early artistic inclinations in the face of opposition from his father, a descendant of the first Wyeth to arrive in the New World in the mid-17th century. His father encouraged a more practical use of his talents, and young Convers attended Mechanic Arts High School in Boston through May 1899, concentrating on drafting. With his mother’s support he transferred to Massachusetts Normal Art School and there instructor Richard Andrew urged him toward illustration. He studied with Eric Pape and Charles W. Reed and then painted with George L. Noyes in Annisquam, Massachusetts, during the summer of 1901.
On the advice of two friends, artists Clifford Ashley and Henry Peck, Wyeth decided to travel to Wilmington, Delaware, in October 1902, to join the Howard Pyle School of Art. Howard Pyle, one of the country’s most renowned illustrators, left a teaching position at Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry in Philadelphia to open his own school of illustration in Wilmington. Pyle was an inspired teacher and Wyeth an attentive pupil. The master emphasized the use of dramatic effects in painting and the importance of sound, personal knowledge of one’s subject, teachings Wyeth quickly assimilated and employed throughout his career. The astute young man recognized the value of Pyle’s instruction, writing to his mother just after his arrival, “the composition lecture…opened my eyes more than any talk I ever heard.” (BJW, p. 21) In less than five months, Wyeth successfully submitted a cover illustration to the Saturday Evening Post.
John Thomson (14 June 1837 – 29 September 1921) was a pioneering Scottish photographer, geographer and traveller. He was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East, documenting the people, landscapes and artifacts of eastern cultures. Upon returning home, his work among the street people of London cemented his reputation, and is regarded as a classic instance of social documentary which laid the foundations for photojournalism. He went on to become a portrait photographer of High Society in Mayfair, gaining the Royal Warrant in 1881.
The son of William Thomson, a tobacco spinner and retail trader, and his wife Isabella, Thomson was born the eighth of nine children in Edinburgh in the year of Queen Victoria’s accession. After his schooling in the early 1850s, he was apprenticed to a local optical and scientific instrument manufacturer, thought to be James Mackay Bryson. During this time, Thomson learned the principles of photography and completed his apprenticeship around 1858.
During this time he also undertook two years of evening classes at the Watt Institution and School of Arts (formerly the Edinburgh School of Arts, later to become Heriot-Watt University). He received the “Attestation of Proficiency” in Natural Philosophy in 1857 and in Junior Mathematics and Chemistry in 1858. In 1861 he became a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts, but by 1862 he had decided to travel to Singapore to join his older brother William, a watchmaker and photographer.
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