Tuesday, May 1, 2012

“An Old-time May Day in ‘Merrie England’”

“An Old-time May Day in ‘Merrie England’” by Howard Pyle (1878)
About a year after Howard Pyle made his illustration for “The Merrie Month of May” - used on the cover of St. Nicholas for May 1877 - he revisited the topic of “May Day” in the illustration shown here. It illustrated “The Story of May-Day” by Olive Thorne in St. Nicholas for May 1878.

In his scrapbook, Pyle wrote, “This picture was ordered by St Nicholas on the strength of the Carnival in Phila.” And of that picture Pyle scribbled: “This was my first seriously ordered work. I received the commission to paint this picture after having completed a drawing for Harper’s Weekly called a ‘Wreck in the Offing’. It is a labored composition but was much liked.”

“Carnival, Philadelphia, 1778” appeared in “The Battle of Monmouth Court-House” by Benson J. Lossing in the June 1878 Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. The original black and white gouache painting is now at the Delaware Art Museum. It differs slightly from the engraving shown here; evidently, the engraver altered Pyle’s image, or - more likely, I think - Pyle tweaked it after it was engraved, perhaps to ready it for the Salmagundi Sketch Club’s exhibition at the Kurtz Gallery in February 1879. At which time, the New York Herald heralded it as “a careful and good scene at carnival time in Philadelphia in colonial days.”

“Carnival, Philadelphia, 1778” by Howard Pyle (1878)

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