Unseen Boston Blackie … The “Lost” Images

May 4, 2015 at 1:00 AM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

When The American Magazine published the quartet of tales which introduced Boston Blackie to the world in 1914, readers were treated not only to the watershed stories of Jack Boyle’s literary career, but also to the graphic artistry of a master illustrator.  These early Blackie yarns were graced by illustrations from rising American artist N.C. Wyeth.  Each story was accompanied by several original Wyeth compositions, all rendered in beautiful black and white.  Several excellent artists illustrated Blackie’s magazine adventures over the years – W.H.D. Koerner and Lee Conrey, to name just a pair – but Wyeth’s work on the series is in a class by itself.

Which makes it all the more exciting to discover a couple of Boston Blackie images that have never been published the way Wyeth originally rendered them.  While The American presented these pieces gorgeously in black and white, the artist painted at least some of them in full color.  So, while Wyeth’s work on Boston Blackie has been available to the public for literally as long as the character has existed, almost no one has seen the paintings the way they actually appeared resting on the artist’s easel.

Happily, the Brandywine River Museum in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania is home to many of the original canvases of N.C. Wyeth, and among them are at least two full color images from Jack Boyle’s very first set of Boston Blackie tales.  These images cannot be reproduced here (as they are copyrighted to the Brandywine Museum), but for your enjoyment I will present links to them as they appear on the museum’s website:

http://brandywine.doetech.net/Voyager/image.cfm?ImageKey=9785&ImageFile=/VoyagerImages/BRM_93.23.jpg&TableKey=OBJECT:1213155

This first painting was highlighted in the October 1914 story “A Thief’s Daughter,” and features an image of Mary, before her marriage to Blackie, preparing opium for a group of her father’s friends.  Blackie is among the group.

http://brandywine.doetech.net/Voyager/image.cfm?ImageKey=9493&ImageFile=/VoyagerImages/BRM_96.1.13.jpg&TableKey=OBJECT:1278033

And this image comes from the September 1914 tale “Death Cell Visions,” in which Blackie and his cellmate are visited nightly by a ghostly apparition.

While Wyeth’s Blackie illustrations are among the finest done for the series, apparently N.C. Wyeth himself was less than thrilled to be doing such commercial work.  The Brandywine’s notes on the “Death Cell Visions” piece include the following comments:           

In May, 1914 Wyeth wrote, “To-day on my easel stands a canvas vividly portraying two murderers in a death-cell. The apparition of a hideous blood stained face stares at them from the wall. It is only by using my utmost power of control that I do not get up from this note and destroy the damned thing! But patience! I see the opening clear, where I can choose what kind of thing shall be my output.”           

Regardless of Wyeth’s feelings regarding his commercial work, his illustrations for Boston Blackie’s debut run in The American are fantastic visualizations of Jack Boyle’s scenes, and are well worth the effort of any Blackie fan to view them.  Many more are available on the Brandywine’s website, accessible simply by running the name Blackie though their catalogue’s keyword search.  I highly encourage everyone to take the time to give it a look.

JBF 5/4/15

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: