U.S. agents recover N.C. Wyeth paintings stolen in Maine

Vincent Lisi (R), Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Boston Division, speaks at a news conference in Boston, Massachusetts, August 18, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Vincent Lisi (R), Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, speaks at a news conference in Boston, Massachusetts, August 18, 2015.

Reuters/Brian Snyder

The last two of six N.C. Wyeth paintings stolen from a Maine collector in 2013 have been recovered by agents from the FBI, closing the book on what officials say was the most significant art theft in that state’s history.

The paintings were recovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Boston area in October, a federal official said on Thursday. The FBI in August had offered a $20,000 reward for tips leading to their recovery.

The six oil paintings by Wyeth, the patriarch of a line of painters known for Maine seascapes, were taken in May 2013 from the home of a prominent real estate developer in the state. The paintings were estimated to be worth up to tens of millions of dollars, officials said.

Four were recovered in a Beverly Hills, California, pawn shop in 2014, according to the FBI. Three men pleaded guilty in federal courts in Maine and California to charges of trafficking in stolen goods for transporting the paintings. No one has yet been charged with stealing the art, and an investigation is ongoing.

Born in Needham, Massachusetts, in 1882, Wyeth got his start as an illustrator of books and magazines. He gained acclaim for painting seascapes after settling on the rugged coast of Port Clyde, Maine, where he lived until his death in 1945. Three of Wyeth’s five children – Andrew, Henriette and Carolyn – also became noted artists, as did his grandson, Jamie.

While the family is associated with Maine seascapes, the missing paintings are of other subjects. One, “The Encounter on Freshwater Cliff,” features a swordsman dressed in Renaissance-style clothing standing over what appears to be a slain foe. The other, “Go, Dutton, and that right speedily,” features men in medieval-looking attire peering out from a doorway.

It is not the only case of stolen artwork facing the Boston FBI office. The agency is still working to determine who stole $500 million worth of art from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in a 1990 theft that stands as the largest art heist in U.S. history.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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