Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Haunted House

“The Haunted House” was built, as it were, by Howard Pyle for Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s story “The Gold” in the December 1904 issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine. There, however, it was titled “Catherine Duke quickened her steps.” Pyle subsequently rechristened it and included it in various exhibitions of his work. So, among other places, it traveled to Boston in 1906 and to Minneapolis in 1907. In between those two shows, it sat in Pyle’s studio for a bit, as can be seen in the corner of this photo taken in the late spring or summer of 1906. (“The Suicide” is its neighbor, by the way.)

Pyle, then, was painting - or, more likely, pretending to paint - “The Battle of Nashville” for the Minnesota Capitol building and preparing to begin “The Landing of Carteret” for the Essex County Court House.
Both of these structures were designed by architect Cass Gilbert, to whom Pyle wrote on September 4, 1907:
I am going to send you a black and white picture of an old house which I call “The Haunted House.” The picture has been rather a favorite with me, and I think that you, as an artist, will appreciate the decorative scheme of black and white - say in a dining room. Anyway, I want you to have the picture, partly because I like it myself, and largely because I hope you may like it. So if you will accept it with my affectionate regards you will add another bond to our friendship.
Pyle inscribed the 24.75 x 16" black and white oil on canvas in red paint and shipped it off. I don’t know if Gilbert ever hung it in his dining room, but the original eventually landed back with Pyle’s grandson and its present and permanent address is now the Brandywine River Museum.

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