Inspiring Minds: Howard Pyle as Teacher of NC Wyeth

by Liz on January 15, 2013 · Art of the book, Rare Book Exhibits

Pyle the teacher of NC Wyeth     Among the most distinguished American illustrators throughout American literature, Howard Pyle and his apt pupil, N.C Wyeth stand at the forefront. Through Pyle’s and Wyeth’s lively illustrations, literary classics were brought to life, and were received with much acclaim and fame that has continued to this day. Literary favorites such as Treasure Island, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Kidnapped, Otto of the Silver Hand, and Robinson Crusoe, are just a few accomplishments of these two illustration legends.
The renowned author, illustrator, and instructor Howard Pyle was born in Delaware in 1853. Vastly interested in Medieval settings and romantic tales of heroic courage and impressive feats, Pyle chose to mainly write about and illustrate such medieval legends as Robin Hood, King Arthur, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and King Richard the Lion Hearted. He was also known to provide frequent illustrations for Harper’s Weekly. After instructing in artistic discipline at The Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, Pyle set out to open a school of his own. His school, the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art was a raging success, and many famous artists and illustrators attended, such as N.C. Wyeth.
It is due to the droves of pupils who were fortunate enough to study under Pyle’s wing that he has been deemed as The Father of American Illustration. Though he was certainly well occupied in running his famous school, Pyle managed to further his already impressive name with such works as various installments in a series of King Arthur tales, Men of Iron, The Wonder Clock; or Four & Twenty Marvellous Tales, Being One For Each Hour of the Day, and The Garden Behind the Moonto name a few accomplishments. Moreover, Pyle also took delight in illustrating pirates, and he is today credited for first introducing the widely identifiable picture of the loose blouse, baggy breeches and bright sash clad pirate that is so widely accepted today in tales and films of and piracy.
Newell Convers Wyeth, better known as N.C. Wyeth, was born in Needham Massachusetts in 1882. Growing up, Wyeth fostered a deep love for nature as he and his family was surrounded with nature’s beauty on their family farm. Though his mother encouraged his artistic pursuits, Wyeth’s pragmatic father did not, and he instead urged Wyeth to study the more marketable skill of machinery. However, the pull towards artistic endeavors proved to be too strong, and after attending Massachusetts Normal Art School where he was encouraged to pursue illustration, Wyeth travelled to Delaware to attend Pyle’s famous school.
As Wyeth’s instructor in illustration, Pyle strongly encouraged Wyeth to draw from actual observed scenery, as a means to better create lifelike representations of the nature which Wyeth loved so dearly. Following Pyle’s advice, Wyeth travelled to the Western frontier three times to better aid himself in capturing breathtaking landscape and cowboys in action. Soon after beginning his artistic training under Pyle, Wyeth’s work was displayed on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post
, and his work would continue to be showcased in such publications as Ladies’ Home Journal, Scribner’s, Harper’s Monthly, and many other popular magazines of the day.  The year that his beloved instructor Howard Pyle died, Wyeth was asked by the publishers of Scribner’s to illustrate Robert Louis Stevenson’s much beloved tale, Treasure Island. The illustrations which Wyeth produced for the tale were so well received and so revolutionary in size and perspective, that Wyeth went on to enjoy a long partnership with Scribner’s, and he illustrated many more of their books, such as Kidnapped, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Mysterious Island.
     In much the same way as the famous Plato studied under the renowned Socrates, Pyle and Wyeth’s duo produced results which were every bit as important. While together Socrates and Plato introduced to the world fresh methods of critical thought, Pyle and Wyeth ushered in some of the finest illustration ever known to American Literature. To view each artist’s creative work is to truly experience some of the world’s greatest beauty.
     One such location where one can view the works of Pyle and Wyeth is The National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island. There among grandiose mansions of the distinguished and prominent, are showcased the incredible artistic works of Pyle and Wyeth, that are every bit as distinguished and prominent as the neighborhood in which they are housed.  Together, the illustrations of Pyle and Wyeth laid the groundwork of all future artistic works in the realm of American Illustration.

About the author

Partner, rare book dealer. Sekkes Consultants.

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