Our biography about Howard Pyle mentioned some of his famous students like N.C. Wyeth and Jessie Willcox Smith. While he didn't become quite as well-known, Edward Arthur Wilson (not Edward Adrian, the arctic explorer) was also among Pyle's protegés, and is truly one of the most distinguished book illustrators of his time. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1886, he came to the United States with his parents as a small child in 1893. He studied at the Art Institute in Chicago, and under Pyle.
Iron Men and Wooden Ships, published in 1924, and Pirates Gold, published in 1926, securely placed him as a leader in American illustration, and over the next 40 years he illustrated over 25 books.
Between 1926-1948, he worked on Robinson Crusoe (1930), Two Years Before the Mast (1930), The Last of the Mohicans (1932), Green Mansions (1935), The Man Without a Country (1936), Anthony Adverse (1937), A Shropshire Lad (1938), Treasure Island (1941), Jane Eyre (1944), Westward Ho! (1947), and The Tempest of William Shakespeare. In 1937, the John Morrell Company published a calendar with illustrations from several Shakespeare plays. Prints from this calendar are now rare and sought after.
In 1948, The Book of Edward A. Wilson, edited by Norman Kent with a foreword by Thomas Craven, was published by Heritage Press to do honor to Wilson’s career up to that time. After that, he continued to publish steadily at least to 1966. These years produced American Sea Songs & Chanties, Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor (1949), Ivanhoe (1950), A Sailor’s Treasury, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1952), Dam Busters, and By These Words (1954). Cromwell’s Head (1955), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1956), The Horsecatcher, The Mysterious Island (1959), Warpath, The Deerslayer (1961), Around the World in 80 Days (1962), and Journey to the Center of the Earth (1966) were also commissioned from Edward A. Wilson by various publishers.
Starting with Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1950, Wilson brought to the Landmark and Signature Books not only inspired draftsmanship but a deep feeling for historical accuracy, illustrating a total of six books for the two series: In 1952 he did The Story of George Washington, The Story of Benjamin Franklin, and Clipper Ship Days. In 1953 he tackled The Story of Theodore Roosevelt and The Story of John Paul Jones. Especially notable, as a glance at almost any page will show, are the high excitement and drama which mark Mr. Wilson's work.
Mr. Wilson died at the age on 84, after a long illness, in 1970. Prints of his work are in the Metropolitan Museum, the New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress.
Biography by Eli Evans
Formerly home educated and now father of five, Eli loves discovering amazing books, new and old, and is an artistic curator at heart. The owner and manager of Exodus since 1998, his focus is on offering thoughtful and well-written books that inspire the imagination and promote creativity and diligence while living for God. Read more of his reviews here
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