Howard Pyle

Armand Cabrera

Howard Pyle was born on March 5 1853 in Wilmington Delaware. Born to Quaker heritage Pyle would be heavily influenced by his faith and upbringing. He studied art in Philadelphia with F.A. Van der Wielen for three years learning to draw from casts using sight size method. Pyle returned home to help with his father’s leather business he wrote his own stories and illustrated them. In 1876 at the age of 23 he had one of his stories accepted by Scribner’s Magazine. Optimistic with this success Pyle submitted more stories and they were accepted also.

An editor for Scribner’s named Roswell Smith encouraged him to come to New York where he would have more opportunities. That same year with letters of introduction Pyle moved to New York to pursue illustration and writing.

In 1883 He published The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and secured his reputation as a writer and artist of ability. Many books were to follow including, The Wonder Clock, Otto of the Silver Hand, Men of Iron, and the Story of King Arthur and his Knights. By the time Pyle was 30 years old he had 100 of his illustrations published in magazines.
In 1894 Pyle began teaching for the Drexel Institute and his classes were an immediate success. Pyle taught two classes a week to allow him to continue his professional career as an artist and writer. His teaching was a response to his own instruction at an early age. He rejected the idea of mere copy work and instead taught the use of the model as a starting point for the imagination of the artist. This idea worked well and soon many of his students were successfully pursuing their careers in illustration.
Frustrated by the lack of focus by some of the Drexel students and the overcrowded classrooms, Pyle resigned his post. He immediately planned to open his own school built around serious students willing to work hard. He trained students from the model and outdoor painting in the beginning of their study and then in the art of picture making when their skills were ready for it. Pyle taught artists to immerse themselves in the characters or the scenes to live in the canvas and fill it with their emotions.
By 1906 Pyle became dissatisfied with many of his illustration assignments and turned to mural painting. He painted The Battle of Nashville for the Minnesota State Capitol and in 1907 painted The Landing of Carteret for The Essex County Courthouse in New Jersey.
In 1910 Pyle finally decided to visit Europe. For most of his life Pyle had advocated an American perspective for his art rejecting European Art as unimportant but increasingly he felt its lure. Many of his artist friends were working in Europe where living expenses were much cheaper and so Pyle and his wife decided to move their family to Italy where he could study the mural paintings of European Masters.

Pyle never seemed to make the adjustment to the old world and was plagued by sickness.
Howard Pyle died from a kidney infection in Italy in 1911

Howard Pyle was an artist, writer, teacher , mural painter and founder of what is now known as the Brandywine Tradition. He is called the father of American Illustration and helped to produce some of the greatest illustrators of the twentieth century. He produced over 3000 published illustrations in his career and wrote nearly 200 texts including short stories; quite a legacy for one man.
Howard Pyle
Henry C. Pitz
Howard Pyle
Rowland Elzea
The Brandywine Tradition
Henry C. Pitz
The Illustrator in America
Walter Reed
Art is not a transcript or copy. Art is the expression of those beauties and emotions that stir the human soul…Howard Pyle

4 thoughts on “Howard Pyle

  1. I find it very interesting to read that Pyle was taught the sight-size method by Van der Weilen. Although sight-size is considered by many to have been around for quite some time, it cannot be definitively traced back further than William Paxton. But if Van der Weilen was teaching it, that would pre-date Paxton. I was wondering if you could tell me in which reference you read this?

  2. Jordan,

    The Pitz book mentions it. Where did you hear Paxton invented it?

    Gerome taught sight size. He was notorious for walking around his students with a little plumb bob and the first thing he checked was all the angles on his students drawings. Thats what the Bargue book is all about, which is Geromes method.

  3. Thank you for another informative post.

    However I have to agree with Jordan. I doubt Pyle was taught the Sight-Size technique. It being a historical method is questionable to say the least.

    It can't be said that Gerome used Sight-Size. Just because something is academically or meticulously rendered it doesn't mean it's "Sight-Size". If someone was trained in cast drawing it doesn't have to mean he used Sight-Size either. Sight-Size means just that: making something the same size as one sees it. A 1:1 copy. It's just a measuring technique, a shortcut if you will. Using a plumb bob and checking angles is advisable for drawing from life even is one is not using Sight-Size.

    The original Bargue book consisted of just plates without instruction, nowhere did it say you had to copy them 1:1 so it can't be said for certain that Bargue used Sight-Size either.

    This article is worth reading:

  4. Nicky,
    You don't know what you are talking about. Gerome taught sight size method, go read some books on Gerome and his students and you can read it in Geromes own words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.