Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Pyle, Howard

(1853-1911) Very prolific and influential US painter, writer, illustrator and teacher, whose influence can be detected in the work of countless 20th-century illustrators; he is justifiably referred to as the father of US Illustration. As a writer he had almost 200 texts to his credit, and as an illustrator over 3300 published works: around two for every week of his working life. More than half his written works were children's stories, his most famous works being an illustrated retelling of the Arthur legends – as The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (St Nicholas Magazine 1902-1903; coll 1903), The Story of the Champions of the Round Table (1905), The Story of Sir Launcelot and His Companions (1907) and The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur (1911) – and the legends of Robin Hood as The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire (1883; cut vt Some Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire 1902), all of which are still (1996) in print. He wrote these in a selfconsciously "medieval" style, but nonetheless they have considerable literary merit. Other important works include books on Pirates and highwaymen, as well as many recounting Legends, Folktales and Fairytales.

HP's illustrations show a wide variety of influences: his b/w book illustrations display indebtedness to the Arts and Crafts movement and the work of Walter Crane, while his colour work, in oils, was executed very much in the traditional manner. It is in his painted work that he can be seen to have had the most profound effect on the development of US illustration, for although, owing to printing limitations, only his late paintings were reproduced in full colour, these comprise a very considerable body of work. His handling of colour and form was remarkable, and he had masterful control of composition, allowing him to paint heroic figures with a fine sense of the dramatic.

HP studied under Adolf van der Wielen (1843-1876) and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and published his first illustrated poem, "The Magic Pill", in Scribner's Monthly in 1876, drawn in the anthropomorphic style of Isidore Grandville (see Illustration). In the same year he moved to New York and wrote and drew the first of a long series of illustrated fairytales, published in children's magazines and books. He also created a great number of painted illustrations for Magazines such as Scribner's, Harper's Weekly and Harper's Monthly. In 1898 he returned to Pennsylvania and began teaching a selected group of students; two years later he opened the Howard Pyle School of Art at Chadds Ford. His fame and influence grew steadily: he exhibited in the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893) and the 1895 World's Fair in Atlanta, he was listed among the top US illustrators in 1895, and in 1901 he was included in A History of American Art by S Hartmann. A travelling exhibition of 111 examples of his work opened in Chicago in 1903. In 1905 he began to paint murals of military subjects, but his illustration output continued unabated, with 191 illustrations published in that year. He died on an extended trip to Italy to study the Italian masters, and was buried in Florence.

HP's legacy is vast and wide-ranging, and his influence is still evident in all areas of US illustration. His most influential pupils include Maxfield Parrish and N C Wyeth. [RT]

other works: Pepper and Salt: or Seasoning for Young Folk (coll 1885); The Wonder Clock; or Four and Twenty Marvellous Tales ... (coll 1888); The Garden Behind the Moon: A Real Story of the Moon Angel (1895); Twilight Land (1895); all written and illus HP.

further reading: The Brandywine Tradition (1969) by Henry C Pitz; Howard Pyle: Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine School (graph 1975) by Pitz; Howard Pyle (graph 1975), intro Rowland Elzea; The Howard Pyle Studio: A History (1983) by Howard Pyle Brokaw.

Howard Pyle


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.