Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Some weeks ago I was tooling down I95 on the east coast, bringing my son to school in Baltimore after his Winter break. (I know! I can't believe I'm old enough to do that either!) Here was a golden opportunity to see one of the exhibits I've been waiting for, actually for years. The Howard Pyle show that marks a century since his passing. It was practically on our way, and I was not about to just pass by. I'd been making some noise about it, so everyone in the car knew we would be there for a bit.
The Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, was founded in 1912 with the purpose of gathering and housing Pyle's work. It has become one of the premier museums in the country concerning Illustration, and they have a nice handle on Pre-Raphaelite works as well. I've seen a lot of Pyle's works over the years, and I'm familiar with a broad swath of his imagery— I was keen to see what might surprise me there.
Most of the important works are there, Attack on a Galleon, Marooned, and one on my favorites, The Flying Dutchman. I still can't get over the size of that piece, it's enormous, almost 6' tall! It's obvious that some pieces he did for love of painting, and some were assignments. Here's two that caught me off guard.
The first is a piece —the Angel—I used to close my Dover plate book on Pyle. Why seek Ye, the Living Among the Dead? is a real exercise in contrasts and value control. What surprised me was that the original, as photographed here, is so much lighter overall than the reproductions I've become familiar with. Another was this image in gray, or en grisaille, (Pyle and others painted this way sometimes to better suit works to be interpreted by engravers) from Hawthorne's Wonder Book (Stay tuned for more on that ...) The edition with the Pyle illustrations is quite scarce, and I hadn't had a chance to see these before. The light in the piece When All the World was Young was phenomenal, it absolutely glowed from across the gallery room. There is a homestead in the distance at the furthest visible point, very specific, I imagine it must be an actual location. Any ideas?
The show is at the Delaware Museum until March 4th, when it travels north to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., (where I will undoubtedly see it again) June 9th to October 28th. The book that accompanies the exhibit may be the best book on Pyle's work to date, I highly recommend it.
Lots to come in the next few weeks...including the new collection Alice Illustrated—back shortly.