Sunday, January 8, 2012

“Hey, black cat! hey, my pretty black cat”

“Hey, black cat! hey, my pretty black cat” by Howard Pyle (1891)

“I send you to-day the three drawings for Giles Corey Yeoman and return enclosed the MS.,“ wrote Howard Pyle to Arthur B. Turnure of Harper & Brothers on January 6, 1892. “I hope you will like the drawings; I do not know whether it was doing them for a new Art Editor or not but I found a considerable difficulty in getting them to my own satisfaction. I hope now they may be done to your satisfaction.”

“The pictures are not yet dry, be careful in unboxing them,” he added.

“Hey, black cat! hey, my pretty black cat” was one of the set - perhaps the best one - of four (not three) paintings (not drawings) Pyle made for Mary E. Wilkins’ “Giles Corey, Yeoman” - almost a year before its appearance in Harper's New Monthly Magazine for December 1892.

Pyle liked the project. Back on October 29, 1891 - and just after reading the manuscript - he had written to Harper’s previous art editor, Frederick B. Schell:
It is one of the best short stories that I have ever had given me to illustrate. It is told with a great deal of power and strength. It seems to have the very tone and local color of the time. I shall be most happy to undertake it and to do my best with it...
It’s hard to imagine what exactly the as-yet-missing original black and white oil painting looks like. Even so, this 4.8 x 7.2" wood-engraving by A. E. Anderson nicely captures the creepy mood of Pyle’s simple, yet powerful composition.

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