Thursday, May 1, 2014

Howard Pyle Meets With John Sloan, May 1, 1906

According to his diary, John Sloan met Howard Pyle on this day in 1906. Sloan, then, was making his living as an illustrator, but also painting and etching like mad on the side. Howard Pyle, meanwhile, was enduring an odd stint in his life as the Art Editor of McClure’s Magazine, located at 44 East 23rd Street in New York City. (Incidentally, another probable occupant of the offices that same day was Willa Cather, who had recently joined the magazine’s staff and who had also recently presented Pyle with a copy of her book The Troll Garden.) After meeting with Pyle, Sloan wrote:
Made my first call on Howard Pyle, who is now Art Editor of McClure’s Magazine. Showed him my proofs, illustrations, etc. He treated me with courtesy. Said my work was good in “character” but just at present, you know - everything - not giving out much work - supplied ahead, etc., etc. Call again.
The two men may have met before, perhaps during one art function or another in Philadelphia in the 1890s, though this is the only documented encounter I’ve been able to locate. And Sloan’s sister Marianna is rumored to have been one of Pyle’s students (at least according to the Syracuse Post-Standard of February 14, 1904). Even so, Sloan didn’t sound very encouraged. Two weeks after that meeting - and in the wake of a crisis at the McClure offices - Sloan noted that, despite the exodus of a large chunk of the staff, including muckraking superstars Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell: “H. Pyle remains, I fear. Little chance for my work under the ‘boilermaker.’”

Ouch. Was Sloan reflecting on the steady stream of illustrators from Pyle’s “big art manufactory [sic]” (as Pyle student George Harding referred to it), who virtually flooded the market with what some artists no doubt deemed a clich├ęd way of making pictures? Maybe so.

The magazine did, however, publish a story, “The Debts of Antoine” by W. B. MacHarg, with Sloan’s pictures - dated ’06 - in the December 1906 issue. Whether Pyle commissioned these or not, I don’t yet know, but Sloan considered it “joyful news” when Pyle resigned from McClure’s that August.


kev ferrara said...

"Big art manufactory" is an interesting line. Is that Harding speaking contemporaneously or is that from a letter that came later on. (I know that Harding dismissed his illustration work when speaking to students of his in the 50s.)

Ian Schoenherr said...

George Harding's comment comes from a letter he wrote to his sister (and former Pyle student) Charlotte Harding, not long after joining the school in 1902.

And in a 1904 letter to Frank Schoonover, Henry Peck said, "The art factory is very busy these days."

I gather what was an in-joke among Pyle students gradually spread to the illustration community at large - especially once Pyle's students' work began to flood the market.