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Howard Pyle and the American Renaissance

March 17 - May 20, 2007


Case Labels for the exhibition

[CASE 1]
During the American Renaissance, popular magazines reflected the period's fascination with the art of the ancient past, contemporary civilizations, and cultural progress.
Publications such as Scribner's Monthly, The Century Magazine, and Harper's Magazine offered a stimulating variety of topics that appealed to educated audiences. These magazines attracted established authors, scholars, scientists, critics, and even young talents who contributed informative articles on art, scientific discoveries and phenomena, travel, literature, theater, and music. Many artists contributed essays on art history and current trends in Europe and America. As magazines became cultural magnets, artists featured in such publications found it helped their careers.
Harriet Prescott Spofford, "Elizabethan and Later English Furniture," in Harper's Magazine, December 1877
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
[CASE 2]
James Baldwin, The Golden Age
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1887
Illustrated by Howard Pyle
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
In A Story of the Golden Age, author James Baldwin revised selected episodes from The Iliad and The Odyssey for young readers. True to the spirit of the American Renaissance, he stressed the importance of giving the tales "a different coloring," by rearranging events, leaving out certain details, or emphasizing others, as "the right of the story teller, the poet, and the artist."
Nathaniel Hawthorne, A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys, and Tanglewood Tales
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1900
Illustrated by Howard Pyle
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
First published in 1851, Hawthorne's version of Greek myths includes such classics as "The Story of Midas and His Golden Touch," "Pandora's Box," and "The Adventures of Hercules." Hawthorne re-wrote the stories in a tone that pleased him because he said that translations had "the classic coldness which is as repellant as the touch of marble." The publishers proclaimed further improvements to the classic tales by making them "purified from all moral stains, [and] re-created as good as new, or better, and fully equal, in their way to Mother Goose." This approach is typical of nineteenth-century belief that one could borrow from the past and improve it.
Clement Laurence Smith, ed,
The Odes and Epodes of Horace, vol 1. Boston: The Bibliophile Society, 1901
Illustrated by Howard Pyle and William Bicknell
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Pyle's illustrations were reproduced as etchings for the publication by William Bicknell. Pyle and Bicknell were both members of the Bibliophile Society.
[CASE 3]
William Dean Howells, Stops of Various Quills
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1895
Illustrated by Howard Pyle
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Howard Pyle and Howells had a lively correspondence on philosophical and religious matters, and their partnership in this project reveals their like-mindedness. Pyle presented Howells with the original illustration of the Sphinx that appeared in the book. That same work also served as the basis for Pyle's illustration for Ellen M.H. Gates' The Body to the Soul published in 1900, which is shown elsewhere in this exhibition.
Edwin Markham. The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems,
New York: Doubleday and McClure, Co., 1900
Illustrated by Howard Pyle
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Edwin Markham's poem The Man with the Hoe was inspired by French artist Jean François Millet's (1814-1875) oil painting of a down-trodden farmer, L'homme à la Houe, 1863 (Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum). When the poem was first published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1899, it became a rallying cry about poverty and exploitation of the working class. In its time it was the most commercially successful poem ever published and was required reading for generations of school students. The work even inspired a "Hoe-Man" symposium organized by social reformers, clerics, and teachers soon after its publication.
This and other poems by Markham were published in book form with Pyle's illustrations in 1900. In homage to Millet's painting, Pyle's frontispiece illustration depicts a poorly-clad, barefoot man with a staff. A figure draped in black holds a crown of thorns over the man's bent head. This image symbolizes the poor and oppressed as religious martyrs.
Jean François Millet (1814-1875) L'homme à la Houe, 1863
This painting was the inspiration for Edwin Markham's poem, The Man with the Hoe, and Pyle's frontispiece illustration for the book.
Ellen M. H. Gates, "The Body to the Soul"
Harper's New Monthly, August, 1899
Illustrated by Howard Pyle
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Howard Pyle, The Wonderclock
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1888
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Many of the illustrations in The Wonderclock reveal Pyle's reference to German Renaissance artist Albrect Durer's prints and drawings. This particular illustration is unusually close in its quotation of Dürer's woodcut, Knight on Horseback and Lansquenet, 1496-97.
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528), Knight on Horseback and Lansquenet, 1496-97
[CASE 4]
Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis
Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1897
Illustrated by Howard Pyle
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Historical novels and short stories became popular reading during the American Renaissance. One of the most famous novels was Polish novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz's two-volume tome, Quo Vadis, which depicts the persecution of Christians in first-century Rome during Nero's reign. The story first appeared in Poland in 1895 and was published in Boston by Little, Brown and Co. the following year with Pyle's illustrations.
Rufus B. Richardson, "The New Olympic Games"
Scribner's Magazine, September 1896
Illustrated by Corwin Knapp Linson
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
This article on the Olympic Games in Greece appeared in Scribner's Magazine the year before Pyle created his illustration, Peractum Est! for Henryk Sienkiewicz's, Quo Vadis. The similarity of composition and placement of figures makes it clear that Pyle must have used this image as a resource for his painting.
The Eclogues of Vergil, Baron Bowen, trans. Boston: Privately printed by Nathan Haskell Dole, 1904
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
[CASE 5]
Kenyon Cox, "Maying"
The Century Magazine, June 1884
Illustrated by Kenyon Cox
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Howard Pyle, Otto of the Silver Hand
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1888
Private collection
Thomas Frognall Dibden's The Bibliomania or Book Madness, History, Symptoms, and Cure of this Fatal Disease
Boston: The Bibliophile Society, 1903
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
E.H. and E.W. Blashfield, "Castle Life in the Middle Ages"
Scribner's Magazine, January 1889
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
William Caffin "American Illustration of To-Day"
Scribner's Magazine, January 1892
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Caffin's article was the first in a series on illustration. He describes illustration's roots in ancient art and its development in the art of the Italian Renaissance.
[CASE 6]
Kenyon Cox, "Augustus Saint-Gaudens"
The Century Magazine, November 1887
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Kenyon Cox, "Sculptors of the Early Italian Renaissance"
The Century Magazine, November 1884
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1948-1907)
Head study for Victory, 1902
Collection of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
Saint-Gaudens sent Pyle a plaster cast of the head of Victory. The whereabouts of that cast is unknown. The plaster version and a bronze cast were both studies for the figure of "Victory" on Saint-Gaudens' Sherman Monument of 1903, which now stands in Central Park in New York. In a letter of January 2, 1902, Pyle wrote:
Your most beautiful gift - the head of Victory - reached me safely
today. I shall regard it as one of the treasures of my life. . . . have always
admired your work extremely - have always considered you as a
representative of that steadfast and lofty effort toward an Art that cannot
condescend to tricks and effects to catch the eye, but that speaks with a
deeper intonation to the hearts and souls of men.
N.C. Wyeth noted the plaster head study and its importance to Pyle in a letter to his mother of October 29, 1905:
Mr. Pyle has gone to Chicago today to lecture, etc. Enclosed you
will find a photo of him. The cast is a head St. Gaudin's [sic] gave
him. He had a photo taken of it so as to use it in an illustrated lecture
in Chicago and Milwaukee. He considers the piece of sculpture
(original study for the figure of "Victory" on the Sherman Statue, N.Y.) a
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907)
Stevenson Memorial Plaque, 1899-1903
Collection of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
In 1887, Saint-Gaudens modeled a portrait of the Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson. The model was used to create two relief portraits containing a poem by Stevenson. After Stevenson's death in 1894, the sculptor revised an earlier relief by replacing the poem with a prayer. In a gesture of friendship, Saint-Gaudens sent Pyle a reduction of the memorial. This bronze is similar to the one Pyle received, although the location of his copy is now unknown.
[CASE 7]
Olivia Howard Dunbar, "Peire Vidal-Troubadour"
Harper's New Monthly, December 1903
Illustrated by Howard Pyle
Collection of Brandywine River Museum
Andrew Lang, "The Comedies of Shakespeare with illustrations by E. A. Abbey, XI, 'Two Gentlemen of Verona'"
Harper's New Monthly, December 1893
Collection of Brandywine River Museum Library
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)
Retiarius, circa 1859
Collection of the Phoenix Art Museum, Museum purchase
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)
Mirmillo, circa 1859
Collection of the Phoenix Art Museum, Museum purchase
These bronzes were cast from the artist's wax studies for Pollice Verso. The bronzes were first exhibited at the Paris International Exhibition of 1878.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907)
Victory, 1892-1903
Gilded Bronze
Collection of Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Purchase, 19.5.2
Augustus Saint-Gaudens's studies at the École des Beaux-Arts and his travels through Rome helped him formulate the delicate modeling of sculptures based on Italian Renaissance models. He was among the first American artists to work in the American Renaissance style. His work was respected highly for its personal interpretation of the Italian Renaissance, for its individual expression of figures, and delicate its modeling.
The winged female figure of Victory is based on the mythic Greek and Roman messenger who crowned victorious athletes and poets. The statue was created for the Sherman Monument begun in 1892 and completed in 1902. Saint-Gaudens' allegorical figure proudly strides ahead of the naturalistic, equestrian portrait of Civil War General Sherman. This figure is one of eight known reductions of the original authorized by the artist's widow and cast after 1912.


(above: Howard Pyle (1853-1911), Peractum Est! (1897), oil on canvas, illustration for Henrik Sienkiewicz, "Quo Vadis," Boston: Little Brown and Company (1897), collection of the Delaware Art Museum, gift of Mrs. Richard C. du Pont [1965])


(above: Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911), Who is Sylvia? What is she, that all the swains commend her? (1899-1900), oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., William A Clark Collection)


(above: George Willoughby Maynard (1843-1923), Sappho (circa 1888), oil on canvas, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Joseph E. Temple Fund.)

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