There’s hardly a more intriguing or renowned family of creatives than the Wyeths. Patriarch N.C. Wyeth was a painter and illustrator who, with his wife, raised five talented children in their famed home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Henriette, Carolyn and Andrew all followed in their father’s artistic footsteps, while Ann became a composer and Nathaniel an engineer and inventor.
Writer Beth Kephart invites readers into the Wyeth family’s busy life, depicting an imaginary day narrated by young Henriette. With paint box, easel and canvas in hand, Henriette eagerly follows her father on a ramble through the countryside to paint the sprawling landscape. Along the way, they pass the other Wyeth children, each busy in their own little world, and Henriette ponders Pa’s advice to “awaken into your dreams.” When Henriette and Pa reach an open meadow, they set up their easels and, in a wonderful spread, begin to paint side by side.
And I Paint It: Henriette Wyeth’s World is a sensitive, satisfying portrayal of an adoring daughter spending time with her father. It’s also an inspiring glimpse into the careful cultivation and blossoming of a child’s creative spirit. Kephart’s writing is full of marvelously specific detail, from “the slosh of the creek” to “the green growing into the cap of a strawberry” to Pa’s coat, which “smells like apple cores and packing moss and turpentine.”
The text echoes with an unspoken sense of the past that’s reinforced by Amy June Bates’ mixed media illustrations. Her muted palette of pastels lends a dreamy mood to the spreads and recalls the spirit of the Wyeths’ worlds. She nimbly alternates between broad landscapes and close-ups of singular items (acorns, a bouquet of flowers) that echo how N.C. and Henriette observe and paint subjects both big and small. Her illustrations also incorporate small pencil sketches—a leaping squirrel, birds in flight—that highlight another stage of the artistic process.
Though the narrative is enriched by biographical information included in the backmatter, this beautiful picture book stands well on its own for readers unfamiliar with the Wyeth family and provides a fascinating look at one of its often overlooked members.