Sunday, January 22, 2012

Howard Pyle’s Drawing Desk

While sitting, tethered to my drawing table pretty constantly for three months, I often wondered what it would be like to stand and draw. That’s what Howard Pyle did, sometimes. Legend has it that he even had a drawing desk custom-made at just the right height so that he could comfortably draw - or write - standing up.

I had pictured it being like an old fashioned, four-legged schoolmaster’s desk, until I finally laid eyes on it (for the first time, I think) this past fall at the Delaware Art Museum. It’s really more of a lectern (or rostrum, or shtender) and it’s not “Early American” at all. And now I wonder if Pyle had it specially made or if he merely had an existing piece - like this one - modified. One of Pyle’s mahlsticks sits on the little top shelf.


Jonathan Wright said...

Hi, would you happen to remember the dimensions of the table? I've recently switched to drawing while standing, and over 10 years og back pain are receding, and so I'm looking to make a table along the same lines.



Ian Schoenherr said...

Sorry - I don't have the exact dimensions, but I think the drawing board top is no more than 3' wide and the whole unit is maybe 4.5' to 5' high..? Pyle was about 6'2" (or taller?) so you have to factor that in, too.

Can you rig a drawing stand with an adjustable top and see what height and angle would suit you best before committing to something more solid?

Kristopher said...


I went to the Delaware Art Museum two days ago, and was able to measure it with a little cloth tape I had.

The drawing table is 50" tall at the back side where the little shelf touches the wall, and the drawing surface is 21 7/8" tall by 31 3/4" wide (so basically 22" x 32"). the little shelf is 4 1/2" by the same width as the drawing surface.
He's also put a small slat around the shelf and also the bottom of the surface, to prevent things from slipping or falling off.
It is set at a 25 degree angle.

I have all of the other measurements (with the exception of how wide the legs are set apart), and I can send them to you via email with a diagram attached...

Hope this helps.

I myself have been wanting to build a desk like this ever since I originally saw it a couple years ago during my Masters program in illustration.

I will probably build mine at a higher drawing angle, about 30 or 35 degrees, depending on how my experiments go with what angle I truly like to draw at...

Ian Schoenherr said...

Kristopher, thanks for going to the trouble of making detailed measurements! And if you're willing to share your diagram, I'd be grateful for a copy, too.