Howard Pyle

Howard Pyle

Howard Pyle (1853–1911) is known as the "Father of American Illustration." While he was prolific, the fact that he could write AND paint AND teach (and do all well!) put him in a unique position for importance in American children's literature.

Born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1853, young Howard was taught in private schools. While he was an indifferent student, he showed early interest in both drawing and writing, which his parents (especially his mother) encouraged.

After spending three years studying at the studio of F. A. Van der Wielen in Philadelphia and a short period at the Art Students League of New York, it was actually a vacation that jump-started his career. At the age of 23, he visited the island of Chincoteague off Virginia and found inspiration there. He wrote and illustrated an article about the island and submitted it to Scribner's Monthly. This article caught the attention of Roswell Smith, one of the magazine's owners, who subsequently encouraged him to move to New York and pursue illustration professionally.

Pyle did this, but initially struggled with translating his ideas into forms for publication. Several working artists encouraged him and he eventually published a double-paged spread in the Harper's Weekly issue of March 9, 1878. After that, he became increasingly successful and was an established artist by the time that he returned to Wilmington in 1880.

Throughout his career, Pyle continued illustrating for magazines; he collaborated on several books, particularly in American history with authors like Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge. And he is most famous for writing and illustrating his own stories, beginning with The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood in 1883. This book won international acclaim, and over the following decades, he published several more illustrated works for children. These include Men of Iron, Otto of the Silver Hand, The Wonder Clock (written with his sister), his famous four-volume King Arthur series, and his pirate book, collected and published posthumously, in 1921.

Perhaps children's books were inspired by his home life. He had married singer Anne Poole in 1881, and the couple eventually had seven children. When they had just two, however (in 1889), he and Anne sailed to Jamaica, leaving their children in the care of relatives. While they were overseas, their firstborn son Sellers died unexpectedly. This loss likely inspired his children's book The Garden Behind the Moon, which is about death and bears the following: "To the little Boy in the Moon Garden This Book is dedicated by His Father."

While he continued to write and illustrate, Pyle also began to teach. Starting in 1894, he taught illustration at the Drexel Institute. In 1900, he began his own school, which eventually became known as the "Brandywine School," where he taught a number of artists who became quite famous themselves. These include N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Jessie Willcox Smith, Edward A. Wilson, and numerous others.

Pyle died young, at 58, and during his last few years, he turned increasing attention to mural painting starting with his first murals for the Delaware Art Museum in 1903. He took up mural painting more seriously in 1906 and painted The Battle of Nashville in the state capitol of Minnesota, as well as two other murals for courthouses in New Jersey. In 1910, he and his family went to Italy where he planned to study the old masters. But a year into the trip, feeling depressed and drained of energy, he suffered a kidney infection and died in Florence.

Pyle is not known for strict historical accuracy. While he compiled one of the earliest novelizations of the Robin Hood legend, he took plenty of liberty with the original ballads, adjusting time period and characters as his needs dictated. He also developed his own ideas for illustrating pirate dress, as few examples existed of authentic pirate outfits and few, if any, drawings had been preserved. His flamboyant style, incorporating elements of Gypsy dress, is noted as highly impractical for working sailors. Still, it has influenced the design of costumes for movie pirates from Errol Flynn to Johnny Depp.

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.

 

 

Born on March 5, 1853, in Wilmington, Delaware to a loving Quaker family, Pyle grew up with a variety of interests. His father owned a leather working business, and his mother passed on to him her artistic abilities. She also encouraged a love of reading literature and an appreciation of art and illustrations. Pyle learned much from his family, and he attended the Friend's School before going to a private school with an excellent schoolmaster.

Having taken an early interest in drawing and writing, Pyle continued to improve his style as he grew older. Eschewing the idea of higher education, Pyle instead traveled to Philadelphia to take art classes for three years at the studio of F.A. Van der Weilen. Productive in his learning and training, Pyle nevertheless returned to Wilmington and began working with his father.

A good, hard worker, Pyle would have settled into the leather business but for a trip to an island near Virginia. The adventure triggered his creativity and renewed his desire to draw and write. His penned and illustrated article found acceptance with Scribner's Monthly, and one of the owners encouraged him to venture to New York and become an illustrator for magazines. Pyle decided to accept the risk and with the blessing of his parents, he moved to New York.

Life was hard. The magazine owner didn't offer him much support, contrary to his enthusiastic earlier response. Pyle's work wasn't accepted because he lacked the technique demanded by the magazine editors. But he learned. Pyle tried different styles; he studies at the Art Students' League when he could; and, he gained knowledge from the experiences and the advice of other artists. Pyle refused to quit trying. For almost eighteen months, Pyle struggled before his determination and labors paid off. Harper's Weekly published his work, and Pyle became well-known for his artwork.

By the time he returned to Wilmington, he was a busy illustrator. Marriage and children didn't slow his work production, but he always made family his first prerogative. Well-respected in his community for his happy, friendly manner, Pyle enjoyed the life he had. An accomplished illustrator, Pyle also believed he could be a successful author as well. This proved to be true when in 1883 his work The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood saw publication. An extensive researcher for the drawings and a comprehensive reader, Pyle knit together many legends to create a story for children. Too, he wove pirate tales into a book called Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates, and his work entitled Otto of the Silver Hand was later made into a movie called Black Shield of Falworth.

Taking on more responsibility, Pyle began teaching in 1894 at Drexel Institute of Arts and Sciences in Philadelphia. He taught until 1900 when he founded a school in Wilmington called the Brandywine School and Artists Colony and instructed students such as N.C. Wyeth and Harvey Dunn. A few years later he accomplished the task of writing and illustrating four volumes of King Arthur legends.

Taking a step back, Pyle then turned to creating murals. His work adorned the Minnesota state capitol and two New Jersey court houses, portraying American historical scenes and subjects. To gain a wider perspective and study the old masters, Pyle packed up his family and moved to Italy. A year later Pyle died from a kidney infection on November 9, 1911.

During his lifetime, Pyle revolutionized illustration by giving them depth and distinction and by showing action and adventure. Before the artwork had been still and dry. Pyle provided drama, and when color came into use, Pyle was one of the first to utilize it. As a teacher, Pyle helped his students find publication and careers in illustration. He taught approximately 110 students, 40 of whom were women. Pyle's students further advanced the world of illustrating and later became known as the "Brandywine School." Future generations of illustrators and readers alike appreciated all that Pyle gave to the world of literature.

CSS

Did you find this review helpful?
45 Items found
Bearskin
Books of Wonder
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
from William Morrow & Company
for 2nd-6th grade
Book of Pirates
by Howard Pyle
from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
CS: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights
by Howard Pyle
Abridged from Sterling Publishing Co.
for 2nd-4th grade
in Sterling Classic Starts (Location: SER-SCS)
$2.40 (1 in stock)
ECL: Book of King Arthur
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Ron King
for 4th-8th grade
in Educator Classic Library (Location: VIN-ECL)
ECL: Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Educator Classic Library #9
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Don Irwin
Complete and Unabridged Edition from Classic Press
in Educator Classic Library (Location: VIN-ECL)
Howard Pyle
by Henry C. Pitz, with illustrations by Howard Pyle
from Bramhall House
for 7th-Adult
in Art History & Appreciation (Location: ELE-ARTHIS)
Howard Pyle King Arthur Series
by Howard Pyle
from Dover Publications
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-10th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Jack Ballister's Fortune
by Howard Pyle
King Stork
Books of Wonder
by Howard Pyle (illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman)
from William Morrow & Company
for 3rd-8th grade
in Picture Books (Location: PICTURE)
Little Lame Prince / The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Dinah Maria Mulock, illustrated by Earl Mayan / Howard Pyle, illustrated by Jo Polseno
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 3rd-5th grade
in Companion Library (Location: VIN-FIC)
Men of Iron
by Howard Pyle
2nd edition from Bob Jones University Press
Historical Fiction for 6th-9th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$7.64 $3.60 (1 in stock)
Men of Iron
by Howard Pyle
2nd edition from Living Book Press
Historical Fiction for 6th-9th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$8.49
Men of Iron - Audio Book CD
by Howard Pyle
from Well-Trained Mind Press
for 4th-9th grade
in Audio Books & Dramas (Location: CD-AUDIO)
$28.01
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Thrushwood Book
by Howard Pyle
from Grosset & Dunlap
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-9th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
A Golden Illustrated Classic
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Benvenuti
from Golden Press
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-9th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Illustrated Junior Library Series 2
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Lawrence Beall Smith
from Grosset & Dunlap
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 5th-8th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Illustrated Junior Library Series 3
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Lawrence Beall Smith
from Grosset & Dunlap
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 5th-8th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Illustrated Junior Library Series 1
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Lawrence Beall Smith
from Grosset & Dunlap
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 5th-8th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Illustrated Junior Library Series 2
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Lawrence Beall Smith
from Grosset & Dunlap
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 5th-8th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Howard Pyle
from Dover Publications
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-9th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$14.41
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Sterling Classics
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Scott McKowen
Unabridged from Sterling Publishing Co.
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-9th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Howard Pyle
from Living Book Press
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-9th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$12.74
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Jo Polseno
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 5th-8th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Robert O. Patterson, illustrated by Howard Pyle
from Castle Books
for 4th-6th grade
Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Howard Pyle
from Barnes & Noble
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-9th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Otto of the Silver Hand
by Howard Pyle
from Dover Publications
Historical Fiction for 5th-9th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$11.01
Otto of the Silver Hand
by Howard Pyle
from Living Book Press
Historical Fiction for 5th-9th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$6.79
Pepper and Salt
by Howard Pyle
from Harper & Brothers
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Pepper and Salt
by Howard Pyle
from HarperCrest
for 3rd-6th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Pepper and Salt
by Howard Pyle
from Dover Publications
for 3rd-6th grade
$9.60 (1 in stock)
Robin Hood
by Howard Pyle
from Junior Deluxe Editions
for 5th-8th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Saint Joan of Arc
by Mark Twain, illustrated by Howard Pyle & Wilfred Jones
from Harper & Brothers
for 4th-6th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Story of King Arthur and His Knights
by Howard Pyle & Sergio Leone
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 5th-8th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Story of King Arthur and His Knights
Howard Pyle's King Arthur series book 1.
by Howard Pyle
from Barnes & Noble
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-10tth grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Story of King Arthur and His Knights
Signet Classics
by Howard Pyle
from Signet Classics
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-9th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$5.91
Story of King Arthur and His Knights
Howard Pyle's King Arthur series book 1.
by Howard Pyle
from Dover Publications
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-10tth grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$12.71
Story of King Arthur and His Knights
Sterling Classics
by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Scott McKowen
3rd Print from Sterling Publishing Co.
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-9th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Story of King Arthur and His Knights & The Story of the Champions of the Round Table
by Howard Pyle
3rd Print from Fall River Press
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-9th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Story of King Arthur and His Knights / Adventures of Pinocchio
by Carlo Collodi, Howard Pyle
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 2nd-5th grade
in Companion Library (Location: VIN-FIC)
Story of Sir Launcelot and His Companions
Howard Pyle's King Arthur series book 3.
by Howard Pyle
from Dover Publications
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-10th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Story of the Champions of the Round Table
Howard Pyle's King Arthur series book 2
by Howard Pyle
from Dover Publications
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-10th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur
Howard Pyle's King Arthur series book 4
by Howard Pyle
from Dover Publications
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 7th-10th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$9.50
Tales of Pirates and Buccaneers
by Howard Pyle
from Dilithium Press, Ltd.
for 4th-10th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Wonder Clock
by Howard & Katherine Pyle
from Dover Publications
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 4th-8th grade
$11.01
Wonder Clock
by Howard & Katherine Pyle
1st edition from Starscape
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$3.20 (1 in stock)