Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Good, Aged Doctor

“The Good, Aged Doctor” by Howard Pyle (1899)

“The Good, Aged Doctor” - or, more precisely, “The good, aged Doctor, the appearance of whose rotund figure on the streets was the signal for the Parisians to doff their hats” - was one of four illustrations Howard Pyle made for James Barnes’s “The Man for the Hour” in McClure’s Magazine for December 1899.

Benjamin Franklin is, of course, “the good, aged doctor”; the street in Paris is most likely a particular one, but I haven’t yet figured out which.

Pyle probably painted this (and its three companions) in mid-1899, while conducting the Drexel Institute’s second Summer School of Illustration at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. I assume this only because his student and future sister-in-law, Ellen Bernard Thompson, made two pictures for this same article at that time. Pyle also probably showed his and Thompson’s pictures at an exhibition of work made by Pyle and by his class for various Christmas 1899 periodicals at the Drexel Institute January 15-26, 1900, and subsequently at Earle’s Galleries in Philadelphia.

I never really thought much of this image, perhaps because the black and white magazine reproduction (see below) flattens and sucks much of the life out of the complex composition. But the original 18.25 x 12.5" oil on board - which is primarily in black, white, and red (and maybe yellow, unless that’s old varnish), yet seems almost full-color - is quite lovely. It’s also for sale: after over a century in the hands of one family - which obtained it from Pyle himself, apparently - it’s going on the block Wednesday, December 12, 2012, at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago. That’s tomorrow!

P.S. The painting sold for $29,375.00 (including buyer’s premium).

“The Good, Aged Doctor” in McClure’s Magazine for December 1899

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