Friday, November 23, 2012

The Sad Story of a Little Boy That Cried

Today is the 149th birthday of Katharine Pyle, Howard Pyle’s sister.

These two siblings seem to have had a conflicted relationship over the years: Howard (who was ten years older) often tried to encourage or push Katharine into a more “practical” career path, but she was too much of an independent spirit, who did things when and where and how she wanted to. At least that’s the sense one might get from reading her unpublished recollections. Katharine may even have gotten a certain glee out of exasperating her much more “controlled” brother.

Yet, for all the focus on his career, Howard Pyle couldn’t recall when his work first appeared in print. He said - more than once - that it was “The Magic Pill” in Scribner’s Monthly for July 1876. But a drawing he made for his mother’s poem “The Reformer” had appeared eight months earlier - and five years before that he made the masthead drawing for the Wilmington newspaper Every Evening. Maybe, however, Pyle was only concerned with his first published words, not his pictures. At any rate, although he may not have remembered his first time in print, his sister remembered hers:
My first finished attempt at verse was one that was taken by the St. Nicholas, and published in the department of children’s writings. Howard made a picture to go with it, and was paid for it but I, of course, was not paid for the verses as they were just a child’s contribution and I was very much disappointed that I wasn’t. They were about a child who was always crying until in the end his mouth had stretched till -
One Morning no Jackie was anywheres found,
But only a great mouth that lay on the ground;

And so that was all that was left, alack!
A great big mouth with a border of Jack.
Katharine neglected to provide a date, but searching through the pages of St. Nicholas - and page 78 of “The Letter-Box” of the November 1880 issue, in particular - one will find:

Once, a little boy, Jack, was, oh! ever so good,
Till he took a strange notion to cry all he could.

So he cried all the day, and he cried all the night,
He cried in the morning and in the twilight;

He cried till his voice was as hoarse as a crow,
And his mouth grew so large it looked like a great O.

It grew at the bottom, and grew at the top;
It grew till they thought that it never would stop.

Each day his great mouth grew taller and taller,
And his dear little self grew smaller and smaller.

At last, that same mouth grew so big that - alack! -
It was only a mouth with a border of Jack.

And so this was all that was left of poor Jack:
The great gaping mouth, like a wide-open sack!

P.K. [sic]
It should be noted, however, that no picture by Katharine’s brother - or anyone - accompanies the verse. Maybe Howard made one (and got paid, unlike his sister), or maybe he didn’t; it’s still a mystery.

But the real injury to Katharine was that somebody - the publisher, the typesetter, or the editors (who included Mary Mapes Dodge and Frank Stockton at the time) - reversed her initials from “K.P.” to “P.K.”, so she didn’t even get proper credit at the time - or maybe ever. That must have hurt. (Howard, by the way, suffered a similar indignity when his fable “The Fox and the Tablet” in St. Nicholas for April 1877 was credited to “P. Howard”.) So as a 149th birthday present I thought I’d finally give Katharine the credit she deserves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Typical Yankee Named Hoyt

“Jack Frost’s Harvest” by Philip L. Hoyt in Harper’s Weekly for December 6, 1902

In an article N. C. Wyeth wrote about Howard Pyle - published in the Christian Science Monitor one hundred years ago today - he discussed an unnamed Pyle student:
Mr. Pyle's inordinate ability as a teacher lay primarily in his sense of penetration; to read beneath the crude lines on paper the true purpose, to detect therein our real inclinations and impulses. In short, to unlock our personalities. This power was in no wise a superficial method handed out to those who would receive. We received in proportion to that which was fundamentally within us.

I recall an instance as an illustration. One member, an ungainly lad from the back country of northern New England, found his way into Pyle classes. He had dreamed, in his remote village, of becoming an artist; of picturing his visions of cities he had never seen, and of the lives of the people therein.

He had come into the composition class week after week, with sketches of society folk and kindred subjects. They were, naturally, unconvincing and poor, but Mr. Pyle’s interest in them did not flag. Meanwhile he assiduously gathered from the fellow accounts of his life in the woods, of breaking snow roads, of gathering maple sap, of log driving, of corn huskings, and a myriad things. It began to dawn upon the Vermonter that his own life at home, the incidents of his own north country which he knew and loved were interesting, yes, intensely interesting. His pictures at once gained in vitality and importance. With Mr. Pyle's trenchant help, he had found himself. I doubt if Howard Pyle ever had a student that did not at some time or other experience some such awakening as this while under his direction.
This “ungainly lad” was Philip Langly Hoyt, born November 2, 1873, in Wentworth, New Hampshire, a few miles from the Vermont border. The son of a farmer, Hoyt studied with Pyle at the Drexel Institute, won a scholarship to the 1899 Summer School of Illustration at Chadds Ford, and was selected by Pyle to join the nucleus of his own art school when he founded it in 1900.

Hoyt seems to have taken fellow New Englander Wyeth under his wing when the latter arrived in Wilmington in 1902. In an error-ridden letter home, Wyeth wrote of him:
The fellow is a typical Yankee named Hoyt. He’s from Vermont [sic]. Perfect Habits. Shrewd and as economical as possible.

I had to get an easle of course and Pyle could get a $25 one for 12.60. Hoyt says Don’t ye dew it! Make it. He made a slendid one for himself, lumber (hard pine), iron fixings and all cost four dollars or a little less. Now it’s quite a piece of mechanism and needs a cabinetmaker’s skill to make one so I bought his for five dollars and he’s making himself a new one making a few improvments (which is to his great delight).
Hoyt remained in Wilmington until about 1904 or so, when he moved to Boston. Eventually he abandoned illustration and although he may not have actually lived in Vermont prior to meeting Wyeth, Hoyt did wind up there later: on the 1930 Census he is listed as a construction contractor in Hartford in Windsor County. He died in Vermont at the age of 90 in March 1964.

Photograph taken in Chadds Ford, PA, showing Pyle and his students seeing off Philip Hoyt, on or about September 1, 1899, at the close of the second Summer School of Illustration. From left to right: Robert L. Mason, Emlem McConnell, Frank Schoonover, Howard Pyle, Annie Hailey, Sarah Stilwell, Ellen Bernard Thompson, Anna Whelan Betts, Stanley Arthurs, Philip Hoyt (in straw boater), Bertha Corson Day.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Howard Pyle, An Appreciation

by Henry M. Alden

Howard Pyle, whose sudden death at Florence, Italy, November 9th, it is our painful office to record, had been for more than thirty years intimately associated, both as author and artist, with the periodical publications of Harper & Brothers - in later years more especially with their Magazine, though his earliest triumphs were won in Harper’s Weekly. The news of his death will bring sorrow to the hearts of all our readers. He has passed away at the very height of his career and in the prime of his manhood, while absorbed in the prosecution of a work which engaged his most ardent enthusiasm and the most distinctive qualities of his genius. He had been abroad since the summer [sic fall] of 1910. It was his first visit to Europe. And he was in Italy - the home of poetry and song, the treasure-house of all the arts! But his quest was not for the old masters. He sought for something older than any art-gallery or academic haunt could yield, something more native and elemental, lodged in the hearts and forever embodied in the idiomatic speech of the people.

Before he went abroad Pyle had sought this kind of treasure at home, in out-of-the-way places, in the Peninsular Canaan of the Eastern Shore, in old Dunkard and Quaker settlements, in the haunts and legends of pirates and buccaneers; and when the contemporary environment failed him he had recourse to history, reverting to Colonial annals, to the England of the Roundheads, and even back to those Arthurian legends upon which he loved to dwell.

This peculiarity set Pyle apart from all the other eminent artists of his time, and it was this mainly that made him an author. He loved to tell a quaint and antique tale as well as to picture it. Abbey found delight in knightly legend, but nothing could have persuaded him even to associate it with literature. Nothing could have kept Pyle from bringing speech into company with his colors. Thus the whole form and scheme of art was conceived differently by these men.

We see then clearly why Pyle, after his technical art-training, did not look to London or Paris for his inspiration. For his purpose he did not need them. He achieved rare technical distinction. His color-sense was a native possession, but it was, in the course of his career, developed to exquisite perfection. No artist has surpassed him in the application of this sense to the process of color-reproduction in magazine illustration.

Creative imagination of a peculiarly original sort characterized all of Pyle’s work, both as artist and as writer. He was not literary in his writing any more than he was academic in his art. But there was always the subjective prompting, however clear and bold the projection. He was spiritually allied to Swedenborg. No adventure attracted him unless it was an adventure of the soul - never subtle, always elemental, and according to a man’s nature, and therefore often evil. This was as apparent in his early stories as in his current Italian folk-lore tales. Perhaps his subjective disposition, in this peculiarity of it, is disclosed best by contrast with artists who, like Remington, loved adventure for its own sake - tough fighting, military combats, pioneer roughing, bronco-busting, and the like - the wholly external thing. We could hardly think of Pyle as an expert war correspondent.

We have lost not only a great artist and a great imaginative writer, but a great soul.

[First published in Harper’s Weekly for November 18, 1911]

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How Are We Going to Vote This Year?

“Whither?” by Howard Pyle (1904)

...Now the fate of the nation lies with us voters to determine.

It does not lie with the Republican Candidate nor with the Democratic Candidate. They are our servants and only do our bidding when we elect them to office.

The VOTER must decide which of these two parties to put in power, and he alone.

He is the sovereign, and upon him lies the entire responsibility of that decision. So we had better take care what we are about when we cast our ballot. Don’t let us be too quick about it; let us take time to think!...

So how are we going to vote this year? THAT is the question!
—From “How Are We Going To Vote This Year?” by Howard Pyle, published anonymously in Collier’s Weekly for November 5, 1904 (and subsequently reprinted in various newspapers). Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “I think it is as good a thing as we have had in this campaign, and I want to thank you for it with all my heart.” And journalist Richard Victor Oulahan later remarked, “I have been told that the cartoon entitled ‘Whither?’ with the accompanying reading matter entitled ‘How Are We Going to Vote This Year?’ was more effective as a campaign advertisement than anything else put out in behalf of President Roosevelt by the Literary Bureau of the National Committee.”

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Howard Pyle’s Sphynx

Howard Pyle made the illustration shown here for William Dean Howells’ “Stops of Various Quills” in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine for December 1894; it appeared in the book of the same name, which Harper & Brothers published - and which Pyle illustrated in full - the following fall. On October 30, 1895, Pyle wrote to Howells:
I am very proud of our book, a half dozen copies of which Harpers have just sent me. I arranged with them to return the picture of the Sphynx. I remember you expressed yourself as liking it rather much, and so, I think, as you inspired the picture, it should be yours. Accordingly I shall have it framed tomorrow and send it on to you as some token of the pleasure I had in illustrating your poems.
Then on November 3, 1895, Pyle wrote again:
I sent you yesterday, by express, my picture of the Sphynx which I want you to keep for my sake.
It seemed to me that, in your poems, the piping Pan of your soul went up into just such twilight altitudes as I have tried to depict; and hearing the sudden dim rustle of wings, turned so to see his Sphynx crouching where she had not been before. 
I want you to have the picture for that reason too.
Howells later mentioned the painting in a July 9, 1903, letter to Pyle: “I have turned a barn into a library here” - in Kittery Point, Maine - “and I wish you could see how I have placed that rich gift of yours...”

I doubt Pyle ever saw it, though. And I’ve been trying to find a photo of the painting hanging on the wall there, but so far I’ve come up short. However, I did find a snippet from the Mark Twain Quarterly (or Journal) of 1936, which says of Howells:
He stood benignly before a painting by his friend, Howard Pyle, who had given him the original of a famous book-illustration. He was as proud as a child to have on his study wall a painting by this artist.