Tuesday, March 9, 2010

100 Years Ago: Ladies' Home Journal on Howard Pyle

The following, yes, fluff piece on Howard Pyle comes from the March 1910 issue of the Ladies' Home Journal. I don't know who wrote it and the part about his "vulnerable pocket" might be a stretch (more about that later), but it's entertaining nevertheless...

An Artist Without A Pose

It isn't often that one meets a successful artist devoid of affectation or the eccentricities of genius, but who is just a plain, every-day man, round-faced, jovial, with kindly eyes, a pleasant smile, and a mind absolutely abhorrent of pretense.

But that is Mr. Howard Pyle, the moving spirit of a unique and incessant colony of art workers in a studio at Wilmington, Delaware - a man who, by his own creative work and the wide influence he has exerted through his numerous pupils, is known as the founder of an American school of illustration.

He is the kindliest of men, a lover of children and loved by them, and his smooth face beams benevolence wherever he goes. There is no deception about the beam either. Every time he appears in the streets of Wilmington the youngsters are lying in wait for him, for they know his pocket is vulnerable. And he cannot resist their importunities.

For years he maintained a school for struggling artists, giving his service as critic and mentor free. Himself a painter, but chiefly renowned as a writer and illustrator of books and magazines, Mr. Pyle found his greatest pleasure during many years in imparting his knowledge to young men of promise, absolutely without remuneration.

Although he has discontinued this school, he still devotes half an hour every morning at his studio to criticism of those art works which are brought to him. His association is no longer with pupils but with brother artists, for he says, "I criticise their work as one artist criticises another."

This statement is characteristic of the intense modesty of the man. Those who bring their work to him are very far from regarding his criticism as merely that of a brother artist on an equality with themselves. He shuns all those things commonly known as theories or principles, disclaims any desire for the "uplifting of art," and avoids those high-sounding phrases which have become catch-words among artistic poseurs. Nor will he be tempted into the expression of any partisanship in favor of this or that "school."

His artistic creed is so simple and practical as to appear almost commonplace. Yet his pupils know well it is not; it is that art should represent what the people want, what they love; that the artist should base his work on simple statement of natural and psychological fact; that Americans should study at home in their own country, instead of flocking to France, where art, he thinks is "decadent," where the exhibitions, he says, are "decidedly bad in drawing and color," and where there are no longer any teaching artists who may be called "distinguished."

Then he will talk along quietly of his interest in the work of young artists, of his constant pleasure in helping them along over difficulties. He will speak of inspiration as a thing wholly normal to the normal man, and will tell you that all of his own work is done with no grandiloquent purpose, but only because he finds it natural and desirable to do it.

There is no pose about Howard Pyle: great as an illustrator, perhaps the greatest in America, he is equally as great as a man.

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