Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pyle’s Art Students’ League Students?

Here is another news item about Howard Pyle’s Art Students’ League lectures and critiques of 1904-05. This one comes from the International Studio:
The Art Students' League has been fortunate enough to obtain the services of Mr. Howard Pyle for the coming winter. His class will not be of the usual academic order, as Mr. Pyle particularly wishes to help young artists as well as students. The course will consist of a series of critical lectures on Composition, the class meeting on alternate Saturdays and lasting two hours, from four to six o'clock. The first hour there will be a general talk on composition, and the second hour will be devoted to criticising the work of those who pass Mr. Pyle's standard. The less advanced pupils will, however, have the benefit of his criticisms as well as his lectures. The first lecture will be held on Saturday, December 3. The tuition fee for this class will be $2.00 a month.
This arrangement was very much like the one Pyle had during his first year as an instructor at the Drexel Institute in 1894-95. What puzzles me is that there were plenty of League members and artists who attended these lectures and had their work criticized by Pyle, but unless they subsequently went to Wilmington for further Pylean guidance they do not appear on the many lists of Pyle students that have been assembled over the years. On the other hand, even those who had only fleeting contact with Pyle at the Drexel Institute (or in Wilmington, for that matter) are considered Pyle students.

But Pyle himself looked on those he instructed in New York as his students - at least if what he wrote to Hugo Ballin on March 8, 1905, is any indication: “I have a few pupils at home and abroad to whom I like to apply when I find myself in need of help, and you see I include you in that limited category.” The American Art News of March 25, 1905, also said, “Mr. Pyle was especially interested in the compositions of Hugo Ballin and Remington Schuyler; their work he considers to be of great promise.” As far as I know, however, Ballin has been conspicuously absent from the “Pyle student” rolls - and I don’t think he’s an isolated case.


kev ferrara said...

Funny thing, that we must look at who wrote history, and what information they had access to, or which information they had preference for, to determine why history was written as it was. Far and away the person who knew Pyle's affairs best was Pyle himself. Everybody else, I would guess, had only one puzzle piece of the overall man.

Regarding how paper trails can be misleading...

I've always had a particular abiding interest in Pyle student, Walter Hunt Everett, going so far as to collect his tearsheets from musty women's magazines from the 20s. I had heard so often that no record of his study with Pyle existed, that I had begun to doubt he was a Pyle student at all.

Then I managed to find a .pdf of Richard Wayne Lykes' Howard Pyle: Teacher of Illustration. And in the footnotes to page 11 it says the following... "The figures above are taken from the records of the Drexel Institute of Technology. Among the pupils of Howard Pyle while he was at the institution the following may be mentioned...." And there amid the standard names is listed "Walter D. Everitt"

Could the source of confusion regarding the record of Everett studying with Pyle really come down to an obviously sloppy bit of record keeping?

I would say, yes. And I think this little error is indicative of the overall problem regarding Golden Age Illustration scholarship. And really scholarship about all the arts prior to about 1950 or so, when institutional record keeping and oral history-taking began its ascendancy.

Ian Schoenherr said...

And then there’s the matter of accessing those sometimes sloppy, incomplete, and misspelled records, once you locate them. At Drexel ten years ago I went to a room filled with cardboard boxes containing student registers, etc., but I couldn’t go through them. But maybe by now they’ve found a place for them and have made them available to researchers.

A side note regarding Everett: he’s still a relative mystery, but if you look at the 1900 Census for Chadds Ford, PA, (taken June 5th) you’ll find the Pyle family at the usual summer house (a.k.a. Lafayette Hall or Painter’s Folly) and then at the hotel in town you’ll find Schoonover, Arthurs, Philip Hoyt - and Walter Everett.

I don’t know if Everett was one of the artists Pyle picked to follow him to his own school after resigning from Drexel, but his presence in Chadds Ford in 1900 seems significant. He was also one of the students that Pyle set to work illustrating Hawthorne’s “The Snow Image” and “Twice-Told Tales” for Houghton, Mifflin that summer. But then Everett disappears again - I’ll keep an eye out for him.

kev ferrara said...

That Everett is listed along with Schoonover and Arthurs in the same hotel in town is no "side note" to me, Ian! I've been looking for just that particular type of proof for a great long time. I thank you heartily for supplying it! (And so off-the-cuff... you rascal. ;) )

Your point about Everett being chosen by Pyle to illustrate Hawthorn is equally concrete and equally fascinating. Does that bit of information come from a letter?


Ian Schoenherr said...

Yes - the two letters are at Harvard in the Houghton, Mifflin archives.

On September 20, 1900, Pyle wrote to Winthrop Scudder at Houghton, Mifflin:

“Mr Everett, to whom I had assigned the fifth drawing for the Hawthorne, brought in a picture which did not in the least satisfy me. If you can give me a little time I would like him to make a third trial. If you cannot give me more time I will withdraw it from him and give it to some one in whom I can place more assurance.”

And on the 24th (having not yet received a reply) he wrote again, saying, “The subject he has chosen was No. 6, Vol 2. ‘The Ambitious Guest’.”

Everett’s picture was “Into The Pathway Of Destruction” and it appeared in “Twice-Told Tales” (Volume 2) in the 22-volume set of Hawthorne published that year.

Pyle supervised the illustration of a couple of volumes (Everett also had a picture in “The Snow Image”) and illustrated “The Wonder Book” himself. Some of the work may have been done in the final weeks at Drexel, but I can’t say for sure; from the letters it seems to have been done mostly during the summer and early fall of 1900.

Do you know of the 18-volume set of Louise Mühlbach (P. F. Collier, 1902) for which Everett made the color frontispieces? The pictures weren’t supervised by Pyle, but very much show his influence.

kev ferrara said...

Thanks for all the great information.

Everett was a 20 year old kid in 1900 and given stories of his later quirkiness, I have no doubt Everett was a hit-or-miss proposition for Pyle to deal with at that time. I have seen the Muhlbach books and agree that they show the Pyle influence, though marred by Everett's early tendency towards "gumminess" in form, uninteresting foregrounds, vagueness in the dramatic presentation, and pointless complexity. (All features Pyle would have found objectionable, no doubt.)

Even though Everett worked for the Saturday Evening Post rather steadily after leaving Pyle's instruction, and had some measure of fame and success then, my interest in the early period of Everett's career is more scholarly than artistic.

It is in the 1920s that I think Everett really begins to live up to Pyle's standards, even though his work becomes less obviously like Pyle because he abandons his earlier chiaroscuro style in favor of an ethereal one. But the way he is using the Brandywine compositional techniques is much more assured, as his technical mastery is turned to the service of the poetry of the picture, rather than as an end in itself.

Thanks again, Ian,