Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Imagination vs. Imitation

Howard Pyle’s “We started to run back to the raft for our lives” from “Sindbad on Burrator” by A. T. Quiller Couch in Scribner's Magazine for August 1902. See the original oil at the Delaware Art Museum.

“...I think you may easily see that in the making of a successful picture, the artist must compose and arrange his figures and effects altogether from his imagination, and that there is very little opportunity in the making of such a picture for him to copy exactly the position of a model placed before him in the lights and shadows which the studios afford. Nor is it likely that he can find any background to copy accurately and exactly into such an imaginative picture.

“For example: suppose an artist were called upon to paint a picture of a man running away from his enemies along the shores of a sea; with a gray sky overhead, and a strong wind blowing over the landscape. You see, he could not pose a model in the required position, for not only could no model hold such a position as that of a man running, with a center of gravity projected far beyond the point of impact; but even if the model were suspended in the air in such a position, yet he would not convey the idea of running. Apart from this it would be very difficult to find exactly the seascape to fit the picture, and exactly the landscape. For all this, the man must draw, not upon the facts of nature, but upon his imagination.

“If I have expressed myself at all clearly, you will see that what a man needs to paint an imaginative picture of such a sort, is not the power of imitation, but the knowledge to draw a figure from imagination.…”
Howard Pyle to William Merchant Richardson French (Director of the Art Institute of Chicago), June 22, 1905


kev ferrara said...

Nice to hear Pyle explain his philosophy of imagination so clearly.

I've always loved the Sinbad stuff. Pyle was really playful and clever when he worked on that. And it all has a beautiful simplicity as well.


Ian Schoenherr said...

I think the set anticipates N. C. Wyeth’s stuff - though the majority of Wyeth’s people look like self-portraits, whereas Pyle mixed it up a bit.