A while back, James Gurney posted some of Howard Pyle’s sketches for “Kidd on the Deck of the ‘Adventure Galley,’” drawn (by my calculations) between mid-August and mid-September 1902. As James aptly described them, “They have the flavor of a vision snatched from the ether, a snapshot from the swirling creative vortex, a half-remembered dream.” And while they are typical of the sketches I’ve seen, Pyle didn’t necessarily jump from these shorthand jottings to the final work, but would - at least occasionally and surely for his more ambitious works - do more careful drawings in between.
Here, for instance, is a pencil study - made only a few months before the Kidd sketches - for his painting “In the Meadows of Youth” which formed part of “The Travels of the Soul” published in The Century Magazine for Christmas 1902. As you can see, Pyle meticulously rendered the model’s blouse, but loosened up considerably in the final work. The figure in the drawing, by the way, is about 11 inches high and the figure in the painting is about 16 inches high (the painting itself is about 31.5 x 17.5 inches).
Note, too, that although this scan of the original plate is pretty poor by today’s standards, Pyle was thrilled when he saw the proofs and wrote to the publisher, “I wish to express to you my great and sincere admiration for the way in which you have reproduced my pictures of the ‘Travels of the Soul.’ I had never hoped to have such really great results, and it seems to me, apart from any question of artistic excellence, that the technical rendition of the work must certainly make a notable impression upon the magazine world. I do not see how it can be otherwise, for it appears to me that if you print the Magazine at all like the proofs, you will have reached the high-water mark of color reproduction.”
In 1903, Alonzo Weston Kimball purchased the original painting and its three companions and presented them to the Kellogg Public Library (now the Brown County Library) in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but they (and 18 of Pyle’s paintings for “Colonies and Nation” by Woodrow Wilson) were recently acquired by the Green Bay and De Pere Antiquarian Society.