Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July 27, 1895

“Your spiritual writings haunt me like personal experiences.”
William Dean Howells to Howard Pyle, July 27, 1895

Monday, July 19, 2010

What, Do You Think You’re Dewing?


“Thereupon the poor woman screamed aloud, and cried out that he was a Murderer” from the short story “Retribution” by Howard Pyle in Harper's New Monthly Magazine for April 1893.

This bears more than just a superficial resemblance to Thomas Wilmer Dewing at his ethereal foggiest. Of course, the overall effect owes much to the wood engraver F. H. Wellington, who may well have struggled to capture Pyle’s subtle shifts in tone on a 6.8 x 4.8" block. But still...

One day the original black and white oil will surface and then we can really see how it compares with, for example, Dewing’s “Summer” (1890) or “The Song” of 1891, or “In the Garden” (1892-94). The two artists had friends in common and must have been aware of each other’s work, but I have yet to find evidence that puts them in the same place at the same time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

July 9, 1899


Turner’s Mill, Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, Summer 1898 or 1899

From The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 1899:
...A summer school of quite a unique order is the Chadd’s Ford School, taught by Howard Pyle and officially known as the “Drexel Institute Summer School of Illustration.” This school is peculiar in that its membership is limited to ten and these ten students are all scholarship students whose tuition, board and lodging are paid for by the institute. Mr. Pyle, who is always busy with his own work, has not time to give to more pupils than these.

The Drexel Institute, in providing this school for its prize pupils - presumably the best workers in its art classes - has made sure that there will be no back sliding, because of desultory summer work, from the high standard established in its winter school.

The school is, before everything else, a school of illustration and the ten young illustrators are engaged in the practice of their profession quite as legitimately as though they were even now pegging away in a hot city studio. Most of them are filling orders for publishing houses and doing besides the regular work of the class.

The setting of this school is charming and its quiet rural beauty offers no distraction from the classroom requirements. The studio work room is an old ivy-covered mill, within whose cool and shaded walls there still clings an odor of grain. Here the “ten” work each day from 8 o’clock until 5, long hours for summer time, when any work drags. When the day’s work is ended - and they know that time by the tinkle of bells of the home-coming cows - they wash their brushes in a neighboring stream, stow away their painting paraphernalia behind doors and on shelves, mount their bicycles and disperse for the night. The men of the school lodge at a small country hotel in Chadd’s Ford, and the girls keep house in a quaint old farm house, used long ago as Lafayette’s headquarters during the Battle of Brandywine.

The recreations of this little group of workers are all pastoral. The milking of the cows forms an important episode in the day, and now and then they help in the harvesting of crops. On pleasant nights they ride their bicycles through the quiet country lanes, and when it rains they play hide and seek in the old mill. There is not much excitement there, it is true, but it is a healthful, happy, purposeful life, which send the students back to their homes with no regrets over a wasted summer....

“...they wash their brushes in a neighboring stream...”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And Here’s to You, Mrs. Zadel B. Gustafson


“The old man's face changed suddenly, and he pressed his hand hard upon the arm of the hair cloth sofa” by Howard Pyle for “A Modern Puritan” by Mrs. Zadel B. Gustafson (Harper's Weekly, April 15, 1882), ink on bristol board, 8 7/16 x 10 13/16 inches.

As with “Jeremy Black” and “A Perfect Christmas,” this is an unusual - or unexpected - Pyle illustration: a present-day setting and pen-work more commonly associated with, say, Pyle’s friends Edwin Austin Abbey (see this, for example), or Arthur B. Frost (his more staid work, not his humorous things so much), or Charles Stanley Reinhart. But Pyle’s drawing technique was in a transitional or at least an experimental phase in the early 1880s; it was dexterous, but not as stylized or distinctive as it would soon become.

Although it’s difficult to show here, rather than using white paint to correct his drawing, Pyle scraped in corrections and certain highlights with a pen-knife - a not uncommon practice for him.

And I wonder if Pyle’s wife, Anne, posed for the young woman, whom she resembles: after all, his workspace was then in his mother-in-law’s (now long gone) house at 207 Washington Street, Wilmington, Delaware, and I assume he enlisted family members to model for him now and then.

Incidentally, novelist, journalist, poet, and women’s rights activist Zadel Turner Barnes Buddington Gustafson (1841-1917) was the grandmother of writer Djuna Barnes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Some of Thornton Oakley's Pyleana

The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (or PACSCL) has embarked on the "Hidden Collections in the Philadelphia Area: A Consortial Processing and Cataloging Initiative" Project. One of the "hidden" is the Thornton Oakley Collection of Howard Pyle and His Students at the Free Library of Philadelphia. A recent blog post talks about processing the abundant accumulation, which Oakley donated to the library before his death. And they posted pictures, which can also be viewed at Flickr. Of particular interest (to me) are:
  • A photograph of Pyle and his students at Turner's Mill in Chadd's Ford taken (by my calculations, at least) in late June or early July of 1902. Standing, from left to right, are: Gordon McCouch, Ethel Franklin Betts, Howard Pyle, Francis Newton (with boater), William Aylward, Ernest J. Cross, Henry Peck, Walter Whitehead (on bicycle), and Arthur Becher. Seated are: Allen True, Harry Townsend, Philip Goodwin (in cap), Clifford Ashley (bareheaded), Thornton Oakley (just behind Ashley), and George Harding. It's the best version of this photo that I've seen.
  • A photograph titled (in Oakley's hand) "The Mill / Chadds Ford / Destroyed by fire / January, 1953." Just too sad.
  • A collection of Pyle signatures, cut from cancelled checks after his death. I've seen similar items glued into books, catalogues, and onto unsigned sketches, etc. A handy way to create a posthumously "signed" item.
  • One of Frances Benjamin Johnston's photographs of Pyle, taken in Washington, D.C., in the winter of 1896.
  • An early Pyle original in the rough. He made it in the summer or fall of 1878 for the Delaware-themed article in his three-part series, "A Peninsular Canaan" (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, July 1879). "In the Northern Market: 'Peaches one cent'" is its published title. Here it's labeled in Pyle's hand: "Peaches! Cent a piece!" and it seems to be a combination of pencil, ink, and gouache.
  • And I can't quite tell what this is. The image, titled "The Minute Man," was used on the cover of Collier's Weekly for February 17, 1906. But is it the original art? It looks like watercolor on paper. I can't tell from here. [NOTE of July 8, 2010: This is not the original art: it differs in detail from the cover and the cover seems to be more thickly painted in oil - and it's also better executed than this and more obviously Pyle's handiwork. So what is this? A photographic print of Pyle's original, hand-colored by someone else?]
Great stuff all around. I hope they show some more.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Howard Pyle's Proto-Vuvuzela?

Almost, but not quite - as you'll discover when you read the accompanying, oddly-metered verse. "Jeremy Black's Fourth of July" by Howard Pyle appeared in Harper's Young People for July 5, 1881 (the issue, unlike this post, was wisely published before Independence Day). As far as I know, it never came out in book form, though it was later reprinted in The Albany Evening Journal for July 27, 1901. July 27th? Now I don't feel so bad.

I've always loved this unusual drawing and its scratchily confident lightness of touch, compared to Pyle's somewhat heavier, or more "deliberate" pen-and-inks for Robin Hood and Pepper and Salt, which began to emerge from his studio a few years later. It's similar to the one for - and dates from the nearly the same time as - A Perfect Christmas, but it's also very A. B. Frost-y and shows that Pyle was indeed influenced by his good friend and the best man at his recent nuptials (i.e. April 12, 1881).

If only vuvuzelas or lepatatas (if you prefer) sounded like the Thing, we all would be much happier.


"And blew as he'd not blown since he was born" by Howard Pyle


Jeremy Black's Fourth of July
by Howard Pyle

"I'll make a noise," said Jeremy Black,
As the days drew nigh
To the Fourth of July;
"I'll make more noise than a cannon, or pack
Of fire-crackers, or pistol, or gun,
Or cannon-cracker; I'll have more fun,
With fifty cents, than the rest of the boys
With a dollar's worth of powder and things -
With fifty cents I will make more noise
Than all the rest of the town, by jings!"

So he went down
To Abraham Brown,
The tinker back of the Blue Bell Inn,
Who mended the pans for all the town,
And he got him to make a Thing of tin.
Then both of them tinkered and talked and planned,
Between the mending of pot and kettle,
And drew the patterns with chalk in hand,
Until they managed the thing to settle;
And all the boys were eager to know
What kind of a Thing they kept tinkering so.
Was it anything like a cannon, or rocket.
Or Roman candle, or pin-wheel, or gun?
Was it small enough to go into his pocket?
Or could he lift it when it was done?
Would the thing go off, or would powder go in it?
And a dozen of such like questions a minute.
But Jeremy Black just gave a sly wink,
And they could not tell what in creation to think.

So Fourth of July came around at last,
And the day was fresh and the sun was bright;
Then just as soon as the night was passed,
At the earliest dawn of the dewy light,
The boys turned out
With noise and rout,
And loud halloo and lusty shout,
And racket of crackers, and boom and pop,
And ringing of bells, and sizz and splutter,
Till good folks trying to sleep would stop,
And get up and close the window and shutter.
But Jeremy Black just turned in his bed,
And down in the pillow he nestled his head,
And thought, with a grin,
How the Thing of tin
Would make enough noise to drown the din.
At length he arose and dressed himself.
And afterward managed his breakfast to eat;
Then took the Thing from the wood-house shelf,
And carried it with him out in the street.
Now all the boys came running to see
What ever the wonderful Thing could be -
And, lo! 'twas a fish-horn six feet long.
"Now stand a little away," said he,
"And you'll hear a noise so loud and strong
And deep and mighty that it will drown
All popping of guns and cannons in town."
Then all the boys stood back, while he
Stepped up to the fire-plug under the tree,
And rested thereon the end of the horn,
Then took a breath that was long and deep,
And blew as he'd not blown since he was born;
And out from the Thing came - never a peep!
He stopped, and wiped his mouth for a minute,
Then blew as if the dickens were in it.
He blew till the hair stood up on his head;
He blew till everything swam around;
He blew till his forehead and ears grew red;
But out of the horn came - never a sound.

At first the boys were half afraid
Of the terrible sound that would soon be made;
But after a while they began to chaff,
And then to giggle, and then to laugh.
Poor Jeremy knew that the noise was there -
It only required a little more air.
Once more he blows, till his muscles strain:
Not a sound. And then he began to know,
Though he had endeavored with might and main,
The horn was too large for him to blow.

L'Envoi.

As one goes over this world of ours
One frequently finds a Jeremy Black,
Who overrates the natural powers
The Fates have granted him - somewhat slack.
Those people who build, though they may not know it,
A horn so large that they never can blow it.

Independence Day with Howard Pyle, 1902

Before the sulfurous smoke of the Fourth of July dissipates entirely, here's how Pyle student Allen Tupper True described the day at Chadd's Ford in 1902:
…We spent the 4th at Mr. Pyle’s and had a good time. After firing crackers and sending up balloons in the morning we had a nice lunch out on the lawn and in the afternoon besides some impromptu stunts by the fellows we had a ping pong tournament and a general good time. In the evening after a bread and milk supper we had some fine fireworks and then everyone came home tired. The whole entertainment was typically big heartedly American and I appreciate Mr. Pyle’s kindness.…