The Great N.C. Wyeth Caper

November 21, 2015 to February 28, 2016

The Great N.C. Wyeth Caper

Paintings by America’s Storyteller

Aug. 18, 2015: David Bowdich FBI Assistant Director in Charge, left, and and FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Rivas speak at a news conference in Los Angeles. (AP)

Six historically significant paintings by beloved American painter and illustrator N.C. Wyeth were recently secured and reunited after being stolen 18 months ago in what the Federal Bureau of Investigation calls one of the largest property thefts in Maine’s history. The recovered artworks are now returned to their home state and are on view at the Portland Museum of Art from November 21, 2015 through January 3, 2016..

The exhibition, The Great N.C. Wyeth Caper: Paintings by America’s Storyteller, features six artworks that were the focus of the state’s largest art heist and an 18-month criminal investigation. After the paintings were taken from a private collector’s home in Portland, Maine, four were removed from their frames and endured a perilous cross-country journey to a pawn shop in Beverly Hills, California, where they were identified and returned to authorities in December 2014. The remaining two paintings were recently recovered in the Greater Boston area, still in their original frames.

“The owner is incredibly relieved to have these irreplaceable works returned to his family. Now that the ordeal is nearly over, he’s entrusted the museum to share them with the public,” announced PMA Director Mark Bessire. “Art heists hold a certain romantic allure, yet the reality is that many pieces of art are extremely fragile, and in the wrong hands, they could be lost forever. Thanks to a collaborative effort—between the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s offices in the District of Maine and Los Angeles, the Portland Police Department, and the Beverly Hills Police Department— the ending to this story is a happy one.”

N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth (1882–1945), best known for his illustrations of literary classics such as Treasure Island, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Yearling, is the patriarch of three generations of important American painters, including his son Andrew Wyeth (1917–2009) and his grandson Jamie Wyeth (born 1946). The works of all three artists are deeply influenced by the rugged, natural beauty of Maine, where the family summered for many decades, and where the youngest, Jamie, still resides. The PMA holds significant works by each artist in its collection.

N.C. Wyeth (United States, 1882–1945), Would the Clock Never Strike? Nerves were snapping, but faces gave no hint of it, 1922, oil on canvas, 32 3/8 x 40 1/4 inches. Private collection, 9.2015.6

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