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The illustrations of Howard Pyle, N. A. (1853-1911) are as exciting now as they were over a century ago. As a teacher, Pyle attracted large numbers of students, and inspired them as much by his idealism as by the high standards he set for picture-making.

Over the years, he taught at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, lectured at the Art Students League in New York, and eventually conducted special classes for gifted students in Wilmington, Delaware, and during the summer at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. He did not charge for his teaching and in fact, built a set of studios for the students to work in. N. C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn, Stanley Arthurs, Jessie Willcox Smith and Frank Schoonover were among the beneficiaries of this instruction, and passed along to others Pyle’s unique approach as they in turn became illustrators and teachers.

At a time when it was customary and fashionable to study in Europe, Pyle had a strong conviction that students should seek their training and inspiration in America. Many of Pyle’s greatest pictures came from his intense and loyal interest in Americana. HIs renditions of the Revolutionary War period and of Civil War subjects have since become standard pictures in history books, among them Woodrow Wilson’s “History of the American People” and James Truslow Adam’s “History of the United States”.

After Pyle’s death, his students collected many of his original paintings as a nucleus for the present comprehensive collection of his work in the Delaware Art Museum.

Excerpted from: “The Illustrator in America: 1860 – 2000” by Walter and Roger Reed.

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