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.

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