from the studio: influences and devices

every artist has them:


* Vol 1: *

Shoonover and Authers with Teacher Howard Pyle
Howard Pyle- The Brandywine Tradition –

Noted “Father of the American Imagination”

“I know of no better legacy a man can leave to the world than that he had aided others to labor at an art so beautiful as that to which I have devoted my life” * -Howard Pyle-


Artist and teacher Howard Pyle started his teaching career in illustration at the Drexel Institute of Arts and Sciences in Philadelphia in the autumn  of 1894 . Eventually Pyle tired of the lack of adequate training for illustrators – deploring the “art school routine comprised almost entirely with imitative exercises that seldom actively involved much imagination“. At Drexel – Howard Pyle’s classes were highly sought out by students nation wide and in 1898, with the help of the Drexel Institute, he started a summer program at Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania to concentrate on a select group of promising Drexel students. It would be a only a matter of two summers with the students at Chadd’s Ford, when  Pyle would resign  his position at Drexel and create his own school of art in Wilmington.


With  hundreds of applicants from all over the country ( think American Idol- it was that big) -“the twelve” students from all backgrounds were chosen by the master himself and what mattered most to Pyle was drive and talent. Pyle wrote in a letter to the art editor at Harper’s Magazine that he “would not accept students deficient in any of the following criteria: first of all, imagination; secondly, artistic ability; thirdly, color and drawing” **.


The Howard Pyle Art School doors opened in 1900 to an impressive array of eager talented students including: N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Harvey Dunn, Jessie Willcox Smith, and Frank Schoonover  who with their imagination and drive would change the world of illustration and American Art. In the time of movie houses – the Pyle Artist’s captured the imagination of young and old and went on to inspire others that followed after. Today the works created by this generation still influence movie picture and book industries and challenge our imagination . The summer months at Chadd’s Ford afforded Pyle and his students the advantage of working in the natural light. “Play” – imagination was the key to the hard work- “drive“.  Many students recalled the summer months at Chadd’s  as “Edenic‘ and returned over the years with growing families -some members enjoying the  role play in costumes as models . After 1903 regular summer classes ceased – but Pyle and his now established artists frequently returned to Chadd’s Ford to sketch, paint, and to play. By 1905 Pyle stopped teaching formal classes yet continued to offer – privately to his former students and established artists- advise and wisdom.

*Pyle in a letter to the President of Drexel,  (Nesbitt 1966, 24

**Agosta 1987, 18)


“An Attack on a Galleon” artist Howard Pyle   29″1/2 x 19 1/2″ oil Illustration


 by Artist and Author Howard Pyle

Originally published in  Harper’s Magazine, December, 1905 *Permanent Collection of the Delaware Art Museum.

Can you not feel the bigness of the world in this bit of canvas (not bigger than 30 x 20 “) and that the world is never still? A masterwork use of composition in line and color.  Color as value and color as “temperature” to create this illusion with cloth, brush and paint. How many studies did he go through to get to this?  Let your eye travel through out this work from the deep blue ocean to the small skiff. The small sail is sharp, the “race is on” and you realize this is not a joy ride, or a pleasure trip. You reach past the madonna and child at the stern   -the ship illuminated and gold gilded with the moonrise romance of the bucolic dusk – to the masts, then you see it – the billowing smoke,  tower like and dreadful…a very real idea of how much chaos unfolds in the beauty of this world . It is a beautiful painting of a very tough subject. It is a work of reality and one of fantasy, created by an American Master. As in music it is composed of emotion, rests – sharps – flats and meters and everything else.  Should you find yourself at the canvas feeling tied to what is in front of you – look at this – and the works of all the masters and know that it is imagination and skill that creates a work of art- you are not obliged to copy your subject.

Influence: imagination -drive- passion – skill and  willingness to always  go further.

c. N.Huehl 2012