Monday, November 22, 2010

Bon Voyage, Howard Pyle

One hundred years ago today, Howard Pyle took an early train from Wilmington to Hoboken, then a ferry around Lower Manhattan to the Fabre Line docks in Brooklyn, and at 1.00 p.m. (or maybe 12.17?) he sailed away on the Sant’Anna, pictured here.

Years later, his student Harvey Dunn recalled, “When we stood on the R.R. station platform at six o’clock the morning he and his family left he looked out over the city of his birth and his labors he held my arm in a strong grip as he said, ‘Write to me, Dunn’ and I know he didn’t want to go at all, somehow, and would never come back.”


kev ferrara said...

That's very interesting that Dunn was the one to send him off. I would have thought Arthurs, Ashley or Schoonover were personally closer to him. (Although, in terms of artistry and with Pyle's falling out with Wyeth, Dunn must have been very close to Pyle's heart in terms of his work and understanding of the Brandywine ideals.)

Is there any other information about Dunn spending much time with Pyle after he "graduated" in 1904 or 1905 or whenever it was?

Did Dunn write to him?

Ian Schoenherr said...

In his book, “Where Your Heart Is...,” Robert F. Karolevitz says that Dunn was mad that no one else saw Pyle off that morning. Not sure about the accuracy of this. But Stanley Arthurs went all the way to the docks with the Pyles, and - the morning before they left - about 20 students gathered at the studios to say goodbye and give him a pair of binoculars as a going-away present.

I think Dunn was pushed from the nest circa 1906, but I don't know much about his “post-graduate” contact with Pyle. I suppose that he, like so many others (including N.C. Wyeth, despite his conflicted feelings) who had stayed on in the area saw Pyle now and then and, possibly, had their work criticized.

So far, I know of only one letter that Dunn wrote to Pyle in Italy. In it he apologies for NOT writing, because he couldn’t find the right words. And he says, somewhat cryptically:

“It has seemed that my gratitude to you Mr. Pyle has not been sufficiently in evidence - I tried last summer to do what little I could when I had the car but there it was again, you did me a kindness in going with me and I was again in your debt so what’s the use, it will always be so and I can only feel that which I wish to express.”

It's really sort of touching how this behemoth could get so shy and tongue-tied around his teacher.

kev ferrara said...

That's a great letter which says a lot about their relationship. Dunn definitely wore his heart on his sleeve and made no bones about being a sentimentalist, and defends his emotionalism several times in Evening in the Classroom. In fact he credits Pyle with making him "unafraid to be dramatic." He often remarks how grateful he was to have studied with Pyle.

However, there is that incident... I believe it was at an SI gathering. Late 1940s... Early 1950s maybe? I don't know if you've ever heard of it, and I'm going from memory here... Where some speaker at the lectern was lavishing Pyle with praise to such a degree that it irked a rather drink-sodden Dunn. The fellow speaking had clearly not known Pyle. So Dunn staggered to his feet, took over the floor, and told a few "corrective" stories about Pyle that probably caused a few spit takes among the gathered throng. (Ah, if only the impromptu speech had been transcribed!)