Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ticket to Pyle

On December 4, 1903, Howard Pyle and his wife, Anne, traveled from Chicago to Indianapolis via the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway. They arrived at 2:40 p.m. and were met by Will David Howe, a professor of English at Butler College (and later an editor and publisher in New York). Howe had tried to get Pyle to come lecture in Indianapolis in 1902, but the ever-busy Pyle begged off, explaining:
I am not only writing a book [The Story of King Arthur and His Knights] and conducting a class and building a house, but I have so many other engagements ahead of me that I hardly know how I shall carry them. Besides I shall be able next season to give you a much better thought out discourse than I could possible build together this year.
So the plan went on hold until 1903, when Pyle was able to coordinate well-paying visits to both Indianapolis and Chicago in one week-long trip. At the Art Institute of Chicago, he lectured on “The Art of the Age,” met more informally with the instructors and students (including a 19-year-old Harvey Dunn, who would join Pyle’s school the following November), and attended the opening of a one-man-show of some 110 of his pictures.

“As my lecture in Chicago will be more directly addressed to artists it will probably have many practical suggestions which will be well to omit in your lecture,” Pyle informed Howe. “Accordingly I will both concentrate and condense my Chicago words for Indianapolis.”

Unfortunately, no manuscript or transcript “The Art of the Age” has yet turned up, but in describing an earlier version of it Pyle said that he had “endeavored...to explain my understanding of the difference between the Art of the past and the Art that is demanded by the present age.... [and] stated very clearly and concisely my opinion that our age and our times require an art that, if not distinctly different from the Art of the past, is, at least, an adaptation and completion of the art of the past to fit our present needs.”

At any rate, at 8:00 p.m. on December 4th, Pyle “spoke to a large audience in chapel hall at Butler College” - reported the Indianapolis Morning Star - under the auspices of (and, perhaps, restricted to members and guests of) the Irvington Athenaeum. The paper also noted that “Classes were dispensed with and a reception was given Mr. Pyle at the college residence.”

The next evening, Mr. and Mrs. Pyle left Indianapolis on a 6:50 p.m. train. “Our trip home was most comfortable and the six children welcomed us with open arms,” said Anne in a thank-you letter to Howe. And Pyle’s students may have been equally welcoming: “Mr. Pyle is in Chicago,” wrote N. C. Wyeth to his mother, right after the Pyles had embarked on their trip, “and we are left for a whole week to battle alone with our troubles, and when we feel blue we’ll have no kind and powerful guardian to come in and cheer us up.”

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