Howard Pyle, Standard-setting Illustrator
Howard Pyle (1853-1911) has long been considered the king of illustration in classic books. His four-volume 1902 version of the King Arthur stories, which he wrote and illustrated, catapulted children’s book illustration to a new standard of excellence. It is probably not a coincidence that the baby name “Arthur” remained in the top 20 most popular names through the mid-1920s, according to babycenter.com, with Pyle’s King Arthur books as one possible reason. Read Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, which you can find as a free e-book at gutenberg.org. It includes some of his best-known illustrations.
His many works spanned an enormous range of historic periods, genres, and styles. An excellent biography about his life and artistic achievements can be found at https://www.illustrationhistory.org.
The Respect of the Arts Community
Some of Pyle’s fans included artists in his day like Vincent Van Gogh. He also illustrated the books of Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, and had a great influence on illustrators who followed in later years, such as Norman Rockwell.
Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington
The Delaware Art Museum’s Howard Pyle collection (https://delart.org/researchers/digital-archives/howard-pyle-manuscript-collection) is a valuable investment of time. It is located at 2301 Kentmere Parkway in Wilmington. The collection includes many of his best known works, including seven panels that the artist had exhibited within his own home at 907 Delaware Avenue, before they were installed at the Delaware Art Museum in 1923.
According to the Delaware Art Museum website:
“The Delaware Art Museum is fortunate to have a remarkable collection of the works and personal papers of Howard Pyle in our collections and archives. His legacy is a treasure not only for the Brandywine Valley but for the nation and the world. In a letter to his brother, Vincent Van Gogh wrote, ‘Do you know an American magazine Harpers Monthly? There are wonderful sketches in it … which strike me dumb with admiration … by Howard Pyle.’ We are still struck by the force and vivacity of Pyle’s work today.”
The Delaware Art Museum is the second stop on our Delaware Author Adventures Trail.