“Do you know an American magazine called Harper’s Monthly? There are things in it which strike me dumb with admiration, including sketches of a Quaker town in the olden days by Howard Pyle.” Vincent van Gogh, in a letter to his brother Theo (quoted in N.C. Wyeth: a Biography)
Born on March 5, 1853 in Wilmington, Delaware, Howard Pyle is one of America’s most famous artists. He is often called the Father of Illustration. When he proved less than enthusiastic about his school studies, his parents let him study, at sixteen, with Belgian artist Van der Weilen in Philadelphia. This was his only formal art training.
Three years later, he set up a studio in Wilmington. His first work was published in Scribner’s Monthly in 1876, when he was 23. He created illustrations and wrote short stories and poems for many magazines, including Harper’s Weekly. His Merry Adventures of Robin Hood was the definitive version for many years. The Lady of Shalott was his first book for children. The edition at right is a sterling example of the influence the Arts & Crafts Movement had on publishing.
Perhaps most notably, Pyle founded the Brandywine School of painting, where he taught and influenced some of the most memorable of America’s illustrators, artists such as N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Maxfield Parrish, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Charlotte Harding (Brown), Jessie Wilcox Smith, and Edward A. Wilson. Considered to be a master of black-and-white engraving, he was the first illustrator to make the move to four-color printing.
He and his wife had seven children. In 1910, he moved his family to Florence, Italy so he could study mural painting. In 1911, he contracted a kidney infection and died unexpectedly at the age of 58.