Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Perfect Christmas, 1881

One of the remarkable things about Howard Pyle the craftsman - or, in this case, the draughtsman - was his skillful use of so many different drawing styles. For a long time I was mostly aware of his pen and ink work as seen in Robin Hood, Pepper and Salt, The Wonder Clock, Otto of the Silver Hand, and his Arthuriad (i.e. his books readily available from Dover Publications). They were “what Pyle’s drawings look like” to me. In digging deeper into Pyle’s work, however, I’ve come across things that have thrown off my preconceptions.

“Do you live with Santa Claus in his own house?” for “A Perfect Christmas” by William O. Stoddard, was published - solely - in Harper’s Young People for December 20, 1881. The composition is dominated by the cut tree, but the whole drawing - full of short, straight strokes - almost looks like it was made of pine needles. Pyle used this technique here and there from about 1880 to 1882, and drew this one around the same time as - though it barely resembles - his illustrations for Yankee Doodle and The Lady of Shalott.

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