Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Bit of Politics in the Olden Times, 1880

Howard Pyle’s “Politics in the Olden Times - General Jackson, President-elect, on His Way to Washington” (13.3 x 9.1") was engraved on wood by Smithwick & French and accompanied a short text titled “A Presidential Progress” in Harper’s Weekly for March 12, 1881. Pyle painted it in 1880 (apparently in April) and the scene takes place somewhere along the Old National Pike, which he had traversed from Frederick, Maryland, to West Virginia in 1879 with William Henry Rideing, an English-born journalist, in preparation for a long, illustrated article for Harper's Monthly. Now let me catch my breath...

Here is a small portion of the original painting (17 x 11.5") which will be sold tomorrow. The lot listing says it is “grisaille on paperboard” and I assume Pyle used gouache as it was his medium of choice at the time for what he exasperatingly called his “wash drawings.” I detect a distinct proto-Norman Rockwellian quality to this detail and to the picture as a whole, but it is typical of Pyle’s work for Harper's Weekly from the early 1880s.

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