Friday, October 21, 2011

“Deianeira and the Dying Centaur Nessus”

“Deianeira and the Dying Centaur Nessus” by Howard Pyle (1887)

Isn’t this picture lovely? I never really gave it much attention before. Howard Pyle painted it in 1887 for A Story of The Golden Age by James Baldwin, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Even the small (3.7 x 4.6"), early halftone reproduction is pretty good. The original is still out there, somewhere, but it almost certainly is black and white watercolor (or ink) on paper and about 10 x 12 inches, give or take an inch or so. It illustrates a passage in which Deianeira, wife of Heracles, says:
I have been thinking of what I can do to keep my husband’s love. I had almost forgotten that I have a charm which will help me, or I might not have been so sadly troubled. Years and years ago, when we were fleeing from my dear old home at Calydon, we came to the river Evenus. The water was very deep, and the current very swift; but there lived on the banks of the stream an old Centaur, named Nessus, whose business it was to ferry travellers across to the other shore. He first took my husband safely over, and then myself and our little son Hyllus. But he was so rude, and withal so savage in his manners, that Heracles was greatly angered at him; and he drew his bow, and shot the brutish fellow with one of his poisoned arrows. Then my woman’s heart was filled with pity for the dying Centaur, wicked though he was; and I felt loath to leave him suffering alone upon the banks of Evenus. And he, seeing me look back, beckoned me to him. “Woman,” he said, “I am dying; but first I would give thee a precious gift. Fill a vial with the blood that flows from this wound, and it shall come to pass that if ever thy husband's affections grow cold, it will serve as a charm to make him love thee as before. It needs only that thou shouldst smear the blood upon a garment, and then cause him to wear the garment so that the heat of the sun or of a fire shall strike upon it.” I quickly filled the vial, as he directed, and hastened to follow my husband.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

William Pyle Dies in Boston

It’s the anniversary of the death of William Pyle - Howard’s father. He suffered a stroke while on a business trip and died in a Boston hospital on October 15, 1892. The date of his death seems to be in some dispute, but this date has been corroborated by Massachusetts and Delaware records.

He is seen here in a photo taken in 1883 (or maybe 1884). On his knee is his grandson, Sellers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cafe Howard Pyle

Don’t let the introductory graphics set to a disco beat throw you: this new video is a good, succinct announcement for the BIG Howard Pyle exhibition that opens at the Delaware Art Museum on November 12.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Howard Pyle’s Reading List

Headband for A History of New York (The Grolier Club, 1886) by Howard Pyle

“I asked Mr. Pyle for a list of books he would recommend to me to read this winter and he gave me the following saying that when I had read these to come for more.”

So wrote Allen Tupper True to his mother on October 13, 1902. Pyle’s reading list included these titles, which are all still readily available:
By Nathaniel Hawthorne...
By Washington Irving...
By William Dean Howells...
Not really hifalutin stuff, but True later explained, “Mr. Pyle’s list of books is rather queer but he seemed to think I would like and need light literature in connection with the grind I shall have at the studio.”

Of course, Pyle knew Howells personally and they collaborated on Stops of Various Quills, published in 1895.

Pyle also knew Hawthorne’s son, Julian, who interviewed him for an article in 1907. And his first (or second) known book illustration - in McGuffey's Fifth Eclectic Reader (1879) - was for an excerpt from “A Rill from the Town Pump” from Twice-Told Tales. The Brandywine River Museum now owns the original art (but I could have, if I hadn’t chickened out when it was offered to me. I still kick myself.). Also, in 1900, Pyle supervised the illustration of Twice-Told Tales by his students for Complete Writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co..

And the illustration shown above is one of three Pyle made for the Grolier Club’s 1886 edition of The History of New York.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Young Folks’ Favorite Authors

This is one of four playing cards featuring Howard Pyle in The Fireside Game Company’s Young Folks’ Favorite Authors, which was manufactured and sold by The United States Playing Card Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, starting in 1897.

Young Folks’ Favorite Authors was one of many “author” card games, but the first to include Pyle. An advertisement in The American Stationer for November 11, 1897, said:
The Fireside Game Company’s


Educational Games.

This new line of enameled card games is the finest ever issued.

Handsomely put up in bright-colored boxes, printed in bronzes or stamped with gold leaf.

These games are educational and instructive as well as entertaining, and afford endless amusement for young and old, at the same time unconsciously imparting much valuable information.
Young Folks’ Favorite Authors - the ad also said - featured “Portraits of writers dear to our young people. Such favorites as Pansy, Louisa M. Alcott, Oliver Optic, Eugene Field, etc. The game is played by the conventional Author's rules.”

And, speaking of the rules, here they are...