Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Remember the Johnstown Flood?

In 1866, 13-year-old Howard Pyle, then visiting Washington, D.C., wrote to his father, “Please tell me in thy letter wether I can stay [in] Baltimore and if I can ask mother what number streat uncle Davis Hoops lives.”

Davis Haines Hoopes (1803-1873) was married to Pyle’s mother’s sister, Mary West Painter (1808-1885), who lived with the Pyle family in Wilmington for several years before her death.

And on this date in 1889, Davis and Mary’s grandson (thus Pyle’s first cousin once removed), Walter Ernest Hoopes (who was then Secretary of the Johnson Steel Street Rail Company), as well as Walter’s wife, Maria, and their two sons, Ernest and Allen, were “swept away and perished” in the Johnstown Flood.

Their deaths resulted in a curious legal proceeding detailed here and elsewhere.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Decoration Day

“In Memoriam” by Miss Sophie B. Steel

Last year on St. Valentine’s Day I posted an article about the holiday written by Howard Pyle and illustrated by Anne Abercrombie Mhoon. As I mentioned in that post, Pyle often had his Drexel Institute students make compositions with seasonal themes and then submit the results to art editors of various periodicals. The ones deemed best would be worked up for publication. Sometimes these pictures required no words to explain them and other times text would be provided - very occasionally by Pyle himself. And so, on this Memorial Day, here is Pyle’s “Decoration Day” from Harper’s Bazar of May 28, 1898. About the same time that this came out, the picture illustrating it - “In Memoriam” by Sophie Bertha Steel - was shown with the title “Decoration Day in the South” at the Second Exhibition of the School of Illustration at the Drexel Institute. Steel, born in 1870 in Pennsylvania, was awarded a scholarship to Pyle’s first summer school at Chadd’s Ford, and later illustrated Historic Dress in America, 1607-1870 by Elisabeth McClellan and taught illustration at the School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia. For many years she lived in Surrey, England.

Decoration Day
by Howard Pyle

For several years after the close of the civil war, and before “Decoration day” had been dedicated to the memory of the army of silent thousands who had given their lives that the Union might live - for several years before the observance of Memorial day had become a custom in the North - some such commemorative period had been observed in the South, in so far that it had become the custom upon certain appointed times for the women of that section - the mothers, the wives, the children of the Southern dead - to strew the graves of their fallen soldiers with flowers, typical of those sacred memories that still surrounded the lost and loved ones who had fallen for the Lost Cause.

At that time the outward signs of that flaming and bitter strife were still fresh and new. The bosom of nature, ploughed by the iron of war, had not yet healed. Everywhere were smoke blackened and shattered shells, each, one time, the patriarchal mansion of some great slave-holding planter; woods and glades were thinned out by the storm of shot and shell that had torn through them with iron hail; in one place or another long rows - rank upon rank - of shallow mounds stretched up hill, along the level, through the woodlands, battalions of graves hardly yet covered with the thin young grass. Upon a dozen battle-fields were great cemeteries, each consecrated with its baptism of blood, and there North and South lay in stillness, soldiers stretched side by side, in a fraternity never to be broken, because the Angel Israfeel himself had set his seal of silence upon it all.

It was to these battle cemeteries, greater or lesser, that the women of the neighboring country brought their offering of flowers. There is something very full of pathos in the thought of those poor Southern women who had suffered so much and who had endured to such a bitter end - of those patient women of grief bringing their harmless offerings of flowers to these stern and furrowed fields of death, there to lay the fading things upon the bosom of each mound. For the North, it is said, was remembered at those times as well as the South. One cannot but hope this may be true, for it is beautiful to think of one woman of sorrows in the South reaching out an unseen hand to some other and unknown woman of sorrows in the faraway North.

It seems to me that this is distinctly the thought that Miss Steel has caught in her picture of the Southern woman standing with patient, introspective grief over the one precious flower-strewn grave at her feet - the thought of the sisterhood of woman’s suffering.

Thus it was that the observance of Memorial day began. But it was not until 1868 that General John A. Logan - then commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic - issued orders that on the 30th of May of that year all posts, East and West, should decorate the graves of their comrades in arms who had baptized the renewed Union with their own hearts’ blood.

Still later the Legislatures of the different States took up the matter, and so at the present time it has grown to be both a national and a legal holiday in almost all the States and Territories of the Union.

This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the nation’s commemoration of its sacred dead.

Friday, May 27, 2011

“In the Prison”

Would you like to own Howard Pyle’s “In the Prison” from Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker by S. Weir Mitchell? Now’s your chance.

The original 18 x 25" oil in “part color” is coming up for auction at Freeman’s in Philadelphia on June 19, 2011. It might need a good cleaning, unless Pyle’s pigments have irreversibly darkened over the last 114 years.

This is how it looked when it was first published in The Century Magazine for May 1897. The 5.2 x 7.3" plate (in halftone, but heavily worked over by a human engraver) is a much different animal:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Charming Talk with Alpheus Sherwin Cody

The following tidbit comes from the article “Artist-Authors” by Alpheus Sherwin Cody in the May 26, 1894, issue of The Outlook:
Howard Pyle says that he thinks every illustrator should be also a writer, though not every writer can be his own illustrator, for the reason that drawing requires a technical skill which is not by any means so easy to acquire as the more natural art of writing. Mr. Pyle has succeeded very distinctly as a writer as well as an artist, and we find Smedley writing articles, and Reinhart and Remington, not to mention Mary Hallock Foote, who is more of an author than an artist, she maintains.

I had a charming talk with Mr. Pyle recently, regarding the connection between illustration and writing fiction, during which he made the following interesting explanation:

“My own writing has come as naturally with my drawing as it possibly could. In writing, one gets a vague impression of a face. It is an impression, not a vivid delineation. For instance, one cannot so easily call to memory the features of an intimate friend as those of one with whom he is not so well acquainted. It is as if the features of the flesh dissolve into the soul that gives them life. One grows to know the soul better than the face. So it is with the face in a story. In a story you get the soul. The pencil gives a body to the words of the author, for as he clothes them they must henceforth walk in the world. That is why I say the art of writing and delineation ought to go hand in hand.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Press-Gang in New York

Not all of Howard Pyle’s illustrations just “fell off his brush” - I mean, where his concept was vivid enough that he could go straight from hurried thumbnail sketch (or 50, according to legend) to final art. Sometimes he had to do a little more homework. And although there are some relatively careful preliminary studies from his more mature period - like this one from 1902 - he probably made many more of them in his earlier years, when he was less sure of himself. Like this one, which comes from the Brandywine River Museum:

And this one, which was bound into a volume of Pyle’s collected illustrations:

Pyle made both in preparation of his illustration “The Press-Gang in New York” for “Old New York Coffee-Houses” by John Austin Stevens. Here it is as engraved by Smithwick and French, from Harper's New Monthly Magazine for March 1882:

Pyle had completed (and conveniently dated) the work over two years earlier, in December 1879. He was 26, then, living with his parents and siblings at 714 West Street in Wilmington, Delaware, and working in a studio rigged out on the top floor of the family house. He probably worked on this picture there and may have gotten his brothers, Cliff (22) and Walter (20), to pose for him (the second study suggests that he only had one model posing at a time, however).

Fortunately, Pyle’s original black and white gouache also survives in the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection at Yale University, where it’s called “At the Sign of the Griffin.”

That might be their title or one Pyle scribbled on the back, but in December 1880 the painting was exhibited as “The Press Gang” in the Salmagundi Sketch Club Black and White Exhibition at the Academy of Design in New York. The sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, by the way, wrote a letter complimenting Pyle on his work there. “I am happy that you found anything to give you satisfaction in my drawings [sic] in the Salmagundi,” Pyle replied. “I hear there are plenty of them and what they lack in quality may be made up in quantity - like New Jersey Champagne.”

Washington is Notified of His Election

On May 19, 1896, Howard Pyle wrote to Woodrow Wilson:
In thinking over the subject for this Sixth Washington Article, I would suggest, by your leave, the following:

1 Thomson, the clerk of Congress, bringing to Washington the official papers notifying him of his election. It seems to me that this is a very good point and I am going on with it now.

Two gentlemen came down from Alexandria along with Thomson and were present during the interview, Thomson addressing the General in a formal speech, to which he replied in as formal a fashion, accepting the honor done him....
Not long after writing (days, maybe, or a week or two), Pyle completed “Thomson, the Clerk of Congress, announcing to Washington, at Mount Vernon, his election to the Presidency,” which illustrated Wilson’s “The First President of the United States” in Harper's New Monthly Magazine for November 1896. When Pyle exhibited the painting in his one-man-shows at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia and the St. Botolph Club in Boston in 1897, he described it in this deliberately archaic-sounding way in the catalogues:
The Clerk of Congress Announcing to Washington his election to the Presidency.

Here the Hero is depicted receiving with that calm Reserve that befitted him so well, the Announcement of his Election to the Chief Magistry of our Nation. The sealed Packet lies upon the Table, while Charles Thomson, Esq., addresses the great Man in Terms of respectful Congratulation. The other Figures represent two Gentlemen of quality who accompanied Mr. Thomson from Alexandria upon his grateful Mission.
But here’s how Wilson described the scene:
...on the 7th [of April, 1789] Charles Thomson, the faithful and sedulous gentleman who had been clerk of every congress since that first one in the old colonial days fifteen years ago, got away on his long ride to Mount Vernon to notify Washington of his election. Affairs waited upon the issue of his errand. Washington had for long known what was coming, and was ready and resolute, as of old. There had been no formal nominations for the presidency, and the votes of the electors had lain under seal till the new Congress met and found a quorum; but it was an open secret who had been chosen President, and Washington had made up his mind what to do. Mr. Thomson reached Mount Vernon on the 14th, and found Washington ready to obey his summons at once.
The relative brevity of this passage calls to mind Pyle’s comments to Paul Leicester Ford:
...the historic writer has a great advantage over the draughtsman, in that he need not necessarily state the most minute point in his work. If he is uncertain as to any single part, he may slur that and pass on to something else. The illustrator must have everything as perfectly accurate as he can render it, for the picture represents not only the general description, but a description so particular that it may take pages upon pages to fulfill it in literature.
The original painting belongs to the Boston Public Library.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

At the Stibbert Museum, May 14, 1911

STIBBERT MUSEUM, housed in the Villa Stibbert, at Montughi, about a mile and a half beyond the Porta San Gallo. Open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for a fee of 1 fr., and on Sunday mornings free. This collection, consisting chiefly of mediaeval armour and of costumes, was formed by the late Chevalier Stibbert, an English subject residing in Florence, who on his death in 1906 bequeathed his valuable collection to the city. The Museo Stibbert was formally opened in May, 1909. (from Florence and her Treasures by Herbert Vaughan, 1911)
Sometime between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 14, 1911, Howard Pyle and an Italian friend visited the Stibbert Museum (or the Museo Stibbert) on the hill of Montughi in Florence. A few days later he wrote about it to Frank Schoonover:
It is really quite wonderful to see it. Many of the suits of armor are filled with models of the period. I think that which interested me perhaps more than anything else was a general of 1700, with a lace coat, jack boots and cuirass complete.* I never saw such an aggregation of interesting old things. Hundreds, yes, thousands of swords, crossed everywhere upon the wall, and bits of armor in all conditions, from the banged and ancient armor eaten through with rust, dug up out of the ground, to the finely polished, carefully preserved armor of the Italian nobles. All kinds of arquebuses and cross-bows, some of them inset with beautifully carved ivory or mother-of-pearl. All over the front of the building was inset with coats of arms and scutcheons, dating back to the thirteenth and fourteenth century. In front were some fragments of Venetian carved marble, and a very beautiful marble well.
(* If I can track down that general, I’ll post a link or a picture.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Howard Pyle on Art for Advertising

“If it is a legitimate product, such as the DuPont Co.’s or an Insurance Co. or something of a like nature, I think the work is dignified and well worth doing; but if it is to push some patent medicine or breakfast food or something that has no standing, I think it is a dangerous prostitution of one’s art. For an artist must always have back in his mind the idea that what he is doing has no solid standing as a work of art, but is simply done for the sake of earning money. I think this is a dangerous thing.”
Howard Pyle to Stanley Arthurs, May 11, 1911

Odd, Mod Pyle

Little is known about this Howard Pyle sketch, but I don’t doubt its authenticity. While the “modern day” costume of the disheveled, Charles Laughton-like character is unusual, it’s not unique, and the pen and brush work is fairly typical for Pyle circa 1900 - the quick strokes defining the hair, for example, and the rendering of the flesh, not to mention the deft wash of red.

It’s not signed, unfortunately, and the pencilled note “drawn by / Howard Pyle” is not in Pyle’s handwriting. Scrawled on the back we see that it was the property of Emlen McConnell of Haddonfield, New Jersey. Whether McConnell himself wrote this is in dispute - it looks more like “Emelin McConnel” to me - but perhaps he loaned it for exhibition and the exhibitor wrote the note. I just don’t know. The other names written on the back don’t yet ring a bell, either.

McConnell, though, who was born August 2, 1872, in Philadelphia and spent many years in Haddonfield, was a Pyle student of the Drexel days, who also attended both Institute-sponsored summer sessions at Chadd’s Ford in 1898 and 1899. So perhaps the drawing was something McConnell acquired while under Pyle’s tutelage.

Monday, May 2, 2011

“Howard Pyle’s Pictures Grow” (May 2, 1909)

On May 2, 1909, a syndicated article appeared in newspapers across the United States. The writer was James B. Morrow and the subject was Howard Pyle, who Morrow had interviewed earlier that spring (the published piece has a Wilmington dateline of April 26, but Morrow copyrighted it on April 20).

Readers of the
The Boston Sunday Globe, St. Louis Globe Democrat, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Herald, among other papers, got to “see” and “hear” a 56-year-old, paint-spattered Pyle, as he “nervously” rocked in a rocking chair and pontificated about art and reminisced about his early life. It was an odd time for him, though: he was at the height of his powers - or, rather, somewhat past the height - and professional disappointments were on the rise. Not only was he wearying of illustration and of teaching, but his desire to transition into a muralist had, so far, been thwarted: he had completed his last commission over two years earlier, and although he was preparing a sketch for a $50,000 mural project, it would meet with severe criticism - and ultimately be abandoned - not long after this article appeared.

Of course, Pyle
did have a few aces up his sleeve. Two of the pictures that Morrow may have seen at the studio were the masterpiece, “The Midnight Court Martial,” as well as "Who are we that Heaven should make of the old sea a fowling net?" which came out in Harper’s Monthly for September and October 1909, respectively.

“The Midnight Court Martial” by Howard Pyle (1909)

“Who are we that Heaven should make of the old sea a fowling net?” by Howard Pyle (1909)

Parts of this interview have been quoted here and there, but, as far as I know, this is the first time it’s been reprinted in toto in 102 years.

Howard Pyle's Pictures Grow
by James B. Morrow

In spirit, execution, education, interest, healthfulness and color the concise reply reflected the man - the shoulders of whose coat were thickly daubed with sky-blue and yellow paints - and the studio in which he works. There was a noticeable influence of sincerity and business in the artist and his shop.

Bursting vines, green and gray, clung like monstrous cobwebs to the red walls outside. I observed them as I lifted the brass knocker on the upper half door and let it drop. The building looked fresh and English, suggesting the snug harbor of an author or an architect. The walk of brick upward from the street had a turn and finish that rescued it from commonness. Distinction, once a rare and courtly word, associated with scholars and statesmen, but now a popular noun of tailors and shoemakers when they describe their goods was impressed upon the place.

Inside I saw pictures on easels, completed or half done, colonial tables and chests and models of ancient ships. Howard Pyle, the world’s most famous illustrator, it may be, and a novelist as well, came booming across the room - booming in the sense of energy and not in the matter of audible noise.

Long hair and languishing look? No; short hair and gray, virtually white, where the magnificent head has any hair at all. A tall man with long, straight legs, coils of springs in his feet, eyes blue as a fog, a small mouth, bland, but massive and singularly youthful face, and immense gold spectacles. In vestments he would look like a slashing bishop of the church. A red wig and a short sword; music, high lights and a stage, and behold! Julius Caesar. On the stump, pleading for his party or himself, a hurricane and a winner.

We sit in plain rocking chairs of wood under a great window in the roof. Pyle talks easily and swiftly. He has written books, lectured about art, and in curt sentences and jerky pauses has disciplined young artists who have begged his judgment on their work. He has the gifts of expression, imagination, and style. Furthermore, he would have succeeded at the bar or prospered in a bank.

“For the world which cannot comprehend,” I said, “will you obligingly explain what is meant by those cryptic words, ‘an artistic temperament?’”

“I should say,” and Howard Pyle ceased his nervous rocking for a moment, “that there is no such vice or human quality as an artistic temperament. It is a phrase and nothing more, which is employed to cover a good many delinquencies. Artists, studying the beautiful, want it; but beauty costs money. The teller in the bank, counting in your deposits and money and paying them out, ventures upon a little speculation of his own in Wall st. When he is caught his lawyer would ridicule his case were he to plead any sort of a temperament, artistic or otherwise. Yet, the analogy I draw is not inconsistent. We desire the thing which we specialize in our work and interest.

“Men in my profession sometimes undertake that which is beyond their means. There is a house or a picture, or a rug, or some pottery. It is bought imprudently. Debts press, and duns, if repeated often enough, engender carelessness. Then comrades and admirers, bearing the flimsy mantle called ‘artistic temperament,’ try to hide the follies of the offender against thrift and the elementary principles of sound business. Eminent singers and actors, up during all hours of the night and eating indigestible suppers, are bad tempered the next day. There is an out burst, a cup thrown at a waiter, for instance, followed by more or less nonsensical comment concerning the eccentricities of genius.

“A successful artist,” Howard Pyle continued, “is just like any other successful man - conservative, provident and normal,” he declared. “He does his work and takes care of himself and his credit. Titian, the Venetian, industrious and ambitious, had ministers and kings for his friends and companions. Leonardo da Vinci, whose ‘Last Supper,’ the wall painting at Milan, has made him immortal, was a brilliant architect, sculptor, engineer, scientist and musician. Raphael, tremendously practical, was not only the architect of St. Peter’s, but was an able archeologist and an authority on the antiquities of Rome. Michaelangelo wrote poetry, drew plans for splendid buildings and was one of the most learned anatomists of his time. The ‘old masters’ were sensible men. So are the young masters, whether they be artists, lawyers, doctors or preachers. Nor is any great achievement the completed effort of an inspired instant. Nothing worth while is done without toil, and toil compels one to be sober minded and careful.”

“Candidly,” I said, “what is your opinion of the paintings of the ‘old masters?’”

“That their best work is unequaled. However, many of their pictures, notwithstanding the veneration of subsequent generations, are inferior in quality. An artist or a writer is measured by his best work. Even the old masters were human and were not free from the limitations and infirmities of the rest of mankind. It is sufficient that their greatest work at its greatest is among the greatest in the world.”

“Is art making any headway in the United States?” I inquired.

“Splendid headway,” Mr. Pyle answered enthusiastically. “Consider my own art of illustration. The magazines are spending millions of dollars for pictures; enough each year, I dare say, to build a battleship. Are they spending it to indulge a sentiment? Do they want something pretty for themselves? Not at all. They are hardheaded men of business and have long since discovered that the people want and demand the best pictures that are obtainable. Why is Minnesota spending an immense sum of money for a state building and paying many thousands of dollars to mural artists? Why do we see pictures, cut from periodicals, hung in almost every American home? Why do manufacturers, even of those calendars that are given away, attempt to make of them works of art? Why does a business man hire the best artist he can find and pay him $500 or $1000 for a painting to advertise his wares? All along the line art is making progress in America; in no other country of the world are pictures of every kind so much appreciated.”

“What is the yearly income of a good magazine illustrator?”

“I would not attempt to give figures,” Mr. Pyle answered, “although they are often printed - generally with exaggeration - in the newspapers. The published earnings of an artist are nearly always like the estimate of a rich man’s estate before his death - a trifle magnified. Maybe illustrators are not paid so handsomely as are other men of relative rank in their professions, yet, doubtless, their remuneration is sufficient.

“I suppose art offers its own rewards outside of its money returns,” Mr. Pyle went on to say. “It must be many youngsters to embark in a profession that promises so few prizes and so many planks. Since I began my professional career - that was more than 30 years ago - I imagine that at least 150,000 persons have studied art in this country. Out of that vast army of men and women not 150 have attained to fame and material success.

“Illustrating, especially, is difficult, because an illustrator is compelled to tell something, or to make an appeal that will reach a million people. He must, of course, be an artist in the technical knowledge of drawing and the use of colors. Besides he must have originality and imagination. Many young artists, splendidly equipped with technical knowledge, carry their illustrations to publishers only to meet with disappointment because their work would make no impression on the hearts or the intelligence of the public.”

“Are not some of the pictures in weekly and monthly publications,” I asked, “reproductions of paintings made expressly for the purpose?”

“I suppose all illustrations are intended to illustrate a text. The best illustrations, however, are those that stand and are used upon their own intrinsic excellence. They are, or should be, copied colors and all, as nearly as possible by mechanical processes. The magazine pays for the use of such paintings. If the paintings are important they are returned to the artists. Many of the originals sell at very good prices.”

“I have been told that students at your art school pay no tuition and that no one ever comes here except with your consent previously given?”

“As a matter of fact,” Mr. Pyle replied, “I am not running an art school. About 30 young students have settled in Wilmington, and more would be here if they could find studio accommodations. We have what might be called a little art settlement, community. The artists are privileged to come to me every morning at 9 o’clock for suggestions and for criticisms of their work. I make no charge, of course, for such service. Formerly, I lectured each Monday evening, but now I have a class in composition on Saturday evenings.”

“You have never visited Europe, professionally,” I said, knowing that Mr. Pyle is distinctively an American in all his work - painting, illustrating, and writing - and the founder of a recognized system of national art.

“I have never visited Europe in any capacity, either as a student or a traveller,” Mr. Pyle answered. “As a young man I had a fine opportunity to study abroad as long as I desired. The person who made the offer only required that I should send him a painting once a year. But I was then hard at work and felt that it would not be progression to lose time again as a student. Since then I have been busy and have felt no need of Europe.”

“Will you give me a picture of your development as an artist?” I said.

“Yes, quite willingly, if you want it, though I cannot get your point of view in journeying to Wilmington for so unimportant a matter. My earliest childhood was lived in a quaint old house of the colonial period not far from this city. I am glad to say that my mother had an intelligent and sympathetic appreciation of art and literary values, and her influence formed and shaped my earliest studies. She habitually read to us from the best literature of the day, which, in 1860, was very good indeed. The leading periodicals came into our house, Punch among the rest. Tom Taylor was one of the contributors, and Cornhill Magazine, of which Thackeray was then editor. Dickens, Scott and Shakespere are good foundations for a sound literary taste. When I took up a book myself it was apt to be Grimm’s fairy stories. Such was our family life indoors. Outside there was an old garden in which grew many roses, so many that we picked them by the bushel and made rose water after the ancient and customary formula.

“I attended a good school in Wilmington, and remember that I was fond of drawing pictures, but was not a precocious youngster in any sense or manner. Plenty of other boys drew as well and even better. Still, I liked to draw and write. One spring, I recollect, when the birds were singing in the trees and the flowers were blooming, and the restlessness and longings of the season were stirring in my heart, that I went to an old ivy-covered rock near home to compose a poem. I took pencil and paper along, but after I had seated myself amid the ivy I remembered that I had not yet learned to read or write.

“At the age of 16 I left home to be a student at a private art school in Philadelphia. The school was kept by a man [F. A. Van der Wielen] who won a gold medal at Antwerp, the center, perhaps, of the most technical art in Europe. I remained three years in Philadelphia, getting a vast fund of information and a wide knowledge of the purely practical or professional side of drawing. I studied anatomy under Dr William W. Keene [sic], the now famous surgeon and medical author, and liked it immensely. My technical was so good that I could draw the nude figure without a model - and could draw it accurately, too. Throughout my life I have been a fast worker, one of the results, perhaps, of my early training in Philadelphia.

“But I was not taught how to apply my knowledge. The imagination was not trained. We followed hard and fast rules on the theory that pictures were made by technical knowledge. I could draw - anyone can learn to do that - but young as I was, I soon found that execution alone, no matter how skilful, cannot make a picture that the world cares for. Any man of education can learn to write correctly, but it is only the very few who can gain and hold the interest of the public.

“My work lay idle for several years while I experimented. Finally - it was in 1876 - I wrote a verse about a magic pill that instantly turned an aged person, namely a person fretting over his years, into a terrible boy. It was illustrated by some crude drawings in pen and ink. I sent it to the Century Magazine, then called Scribner’s, and, to my joy, it was accepted for a department called, I think, ‘Bric-a-Brac.’ Then my mother read about a drove of wild ponies on an island off the coast of Virginia. At her suggestion, I went to the island and put the ponies into an illustrated story. Several other little compositions were taken at about the same time, and so I decided to move to New York and try my luck at making a living.

“No great ambition was in my mind. Ordinarily, the usual young man, at first, has only modest aspirations. He goes forward by steps, each one a little higher, his development being altogether natural, until he achieves that which lies latent in his mind at the beginning. I had done small things and vaguely hoped for larger ones, but made no effort to look very far into the future. It is well that youth is sightless and trustful. If its grasp were too wide when it starts on the journey of life, if it could comprehend everything that is to come, it would reach for all, only to lose even that which it has.

“New York, then as now, was the richest market in the world for ideas. Its first and loudest call is for imagination. I preach imagination at every opportunity, because it is not only the chief pillar in the structure of art, but the corner stone of all success. In those first days of my young endeavor I wrote verses and sketches and illustrated them with pictures. They were disposed of without many disappointments to magazines and weekly publications.

“Compositions containing a new or unique idea, such, for instance, as a young fellow standing on the shoulders of a monk and passing a valentine through a window to a pretty girl, were sold easily and at good prices. Editors did not insist upon “strong” ideas in those days; anything would do that was “original.” Some of my suggestions were roughly put on paper to be developed by experienced artists on the periodicals to which they were sent. All in all I did well, making $25 some weeks and in others as much as $50. I left my cheap lodgings and, with a couple of friends, took a studio, working and sleeping there, but eating at a restaurant.

“I had been in New York for a year and a half, perhaps, when I painted my first important picture. It was called ‘A Wreck in the Offing.’ A crew of a life saving station were in a room playing cards.

“I knew that the idea was worth at least $15, even if the picture were rejected. But I neglected to consider that the art editor might be absent. It was a shock, there fore, when I found that he had gone home for the day. However, I left the picture.

“Walking back to my studio, miles away, I stopped to see Frederick Church, who was always kind to young artists, but I could not bring myself to the point of letting him know that I was penniless. I told the young men who shared my studio that I was ill and had lost my appetite. But when they had gone to the restaurant I searched my old clothing and found a half dollar; it paid for my dinner that night, my breakfast next morning, and my car fare back to Harper’s.

“My nerves were on edge when at last I faced the art editor. My picture, big as a house, was standing on his desk. I felt sure, the minute I saw it, that it had been declined. ‘Mr. Harper,’ the art editor said, ‘has looked at your picture and likes it. Indeed, he intends to give it a double page in the Weekly.’

“Since that eventful morning,” Mr. Pyle continued, “my ways have been in pleasant places. I was paid $75 for ‘The Wreck in the Offing,’ and the first thing I did was to take a friend to Delmonico’s for luncheon. I want to add that I thought I foresaw the time when illustrating would be a very important part of art life in this country. I never lost confidence in my early judgment and I am glad I have lived to see American illustrating a dignified and major factor in our national art evolution.”

“Why did you leave New York and come back to Wilmington?”

“I found the diversions in New York too many and attractive for sustained and serious effort. When I made up my mind to move I didn’t linger, but packed my effects and bought a ticket.”

“Do you see the completed picture before you begin to paint it?”

“No; if I did, my work, I fear, would be without much value. A picture, and it is the same with a book or a business, must grow under the hand that creates it. A general idea of the intended picture exists in the mind - sometimes quite vividly - but it only develops into a form when it is outlined and it only takes final shape as it is executed upon the canvas. It is the same in a literary production. A writer knows in a general way what he intends to say, but the work develops as he progresses in its execution. At the end the characters and the story are usually altogether different from the author’s conception at the beginning.”

“How do you work and when do you play?”

“I come to my studio in the morning and stay until 6 o’clock in the summer and so long as I can see in the winter. When I shut the door of this building I shut my mind to paint, pencils and pictures. I don’t think of art except when I am here. I don’t talk it. I stand up while I work and that is all the physical exercise I ever get. My recreation is found in the social life of the fine old city of Wilmington, and it is equal to the best in the United States.”