Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"The Old Violin" and a "New" Pyle Student

"The Old Violin" by Howard Pyle (1893)

Next week, one of my favorite Howard Pyle paintings will be sold by Heritage Auctions. It's "The Old Violin" in black and white oil on board. Although it's said to measure 11 x 7 inches, it's probably closer to 12 x 8 inches.

Heritage dates it 1894, but as a matter of fact Pyle painted it in the spring or summer of 1893 for Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes' The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, which was issued by Houghton, Mifflin & Co., in the fall of that year. Pyle seems to have been particularly fond of this picture, because he presented it to his close friend Winthrop Saltonstall Scudder (1847-1929), longtime head of the publisher's art department.

The painting was later made available as a "Copley Print" by Curtis & Cameron. A long time ago, I found a much-faded example of one, which had been signed in pencil by Pyle.

It's really just a photograph of the painting - and the edges of the original board are visible at the margins. It was crudely mounted on cardboard on which was glued a tantalizing typed statement.

Interesting! But who wrote it? Well, on lifting the print from the cardboard, I discovered this, scrawled on the back:

"This print was autographed / for me by the artist, Howard / Pyle, while I was studying / art under him at Wilmington / Del., in October 1910. / Louis D. Gowing"

Somehow, until this print came to light, Louis Daniel Gowing (1884-1967) had successfully avoided inclusion on lists of Pyle's students. Granted, he spent only a few weeks under Pyle’s tutelage, but those with even less exposure to Pyle claimed him as their teacher. Even before joining the "art colony" in Wilmington, Gowing's work had a distinctly Pylean flavor, so it's no wonder he sought the help of the master.

It's quite possible that Gowing was among the 20 or so students who gathered at Pyle's studio to wish him bon voyage - and present him with a pair of binoculars - on the morning of November 21, 1910, the day before he sailed to Italy. (And, incidentally, Winthrop Scudder also saw the Pyles off when their ship stopped in Boston on November 23rd.)

No comments: