Published: October 25, 2011
Howard Pyle (1853‱911) was one of America’s most popular illustrators and storytellers during a period of explosive growth in the publishing industry. A celebrity in his lifetime, Pyle’s widely circulated images of pirates, knights and historical figures were featured in publications such as Harper’s Monthly and were admired by artists and authors such as Vincent van Gogh and Mark Twain.
Yet, despite his widespread popularity, Pyle’s reputation has survived only among illustration scholars and enthusiasts. Until now, his work has been virtually omitted from the larger context of art history.
In honor of the centenary of Pyle’s death and celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding, Delaware Art Museum will present “Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered,” a major retrospective exhibition featuring 79 paintings and drawings created by Pyle between 1876 and 1910, on view November 12⁍arch 4. This exhibit presents a fresh perspective on Pyle’s familiar images, exploring his interaction with the art and culture of his time and effectively repositioning him within the broader spectrum of Nineteenth Century art.
The Delaware Art Museum, was founded in 1912 to preserve and exhibit Pyle’s work following his death in November 1911. The museum’s Centennial Celebration begins in November with the opening of “Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered” and ends in June 2013 with the exhibition “Indelible Impressions: Contemporary Illustrators and Howard Pyle.”
Pyle’s approach to the art of illustration was honed through the intensive, self-directed study of the art of his time, which he experienced both in the original as well as through illustrated periodicals and books, reproductive prints and fine art reproductions. The exhibition will include Pyle’s paintings alongside related works by contemporary American and European artists to show these fine art cross-currents.
Three key themes represented in Pyle’s work will be highlighted in this exhibition:
Visions of the Past concentrates on Pyle’s depictions of history, including medieval knights and Roman gladiators. His views of the classical world drew inspiration from the work of French academic artist Jean-Leon Gérôme and his numerous depictions of the Middle Ages show how conversant Pyle was with the works of the Nineteenth Century Pre-Raphaelites.
Fairytale and Fantasy will focus on Pyle’s fairy tales and children’s illustrations, which show his knowledge of European illustrators, including Walter Crane (1845‱915) and Kate Greenaway (1846‱901). His depictions of the world of make-believe also reflect many of the themes and methods of European Aesthetic and Symbolist art.
America †Past and Present highlights Pyle’s enthusiasm for the American Colonial Revival of the 1880s, which celebrated the history of the United States. Many of Pyle’s iconic Revolutionary War scenes seem to have been strengthened by knowledge of the work of French Salon artist Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, whose military scenes of the Napoleonic Wars were immensely popular.
The Delaware Art Museum is at 2301 Kentmere Parkway. For information, 302-571-9590, 866-232-3714 (toll free) or www.delart.org .
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