Howard Pyle (1853-1911) was one of America’s most popular illustrators and storytellers at the end of the 19th century during a period of explosive growth in the publishing industry. His illustrations appeared in magazines like Harper’s Monthly, St. Nicholas, and Scribner’s Magazine, gaining him both national and international exposure. The broad appeal of his imagery made him a celebrity in his lifetime.
Pyle’s fairy tales and children’s illustrations were informed by, and also influenced, the leading European illustrators of the day, including Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane, and Arthur Rackham. Crane wrote, “…I was interested to meet Mr. Howard Pyle, the distinguished artist, whose work I had so often admired in the American magazines.” Pyle’s Arthurian texts were clearly targeted towards children and were undoubtedly inspired by the wood engravings of the Pre-Raphaelite artists.
One of the very important things that Pyle did was teach. In 1900 he created his own school that he called The Pyle School of Illustration Art. This school was the cradle of many of the greatest illustrators of the early 20th century. Some of his more notable students were N. C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Elenore Abbott, Ethel Franklin Betts, Anna Whelan Betts, Harvey Dunn, Clyde O. DeLand, Philip R. Goodwin, Thornton Oakley, Violet Oakley, Ellen Bernard Thompson Pyle, Olive Rush, Allen Tupper True, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Arthur E. Becher, William James Aylward, Jessie Willcox Smith, Sarah Stilwell Weber, Katherine Wireman and Charlotte Harding. These artists are often referred to as “The Brandywine School.”
Pyle emphasized that illustration should also be fine art. He himself was a notable painter in oil and a brilliant master of black and white. He loved the medieval, as evidenced by Robin Hood, his four volume set on king Arthur and The Silver Hand.
His illustrations of pirates, are credited with creating what has become the modern stereotype of pirate dress.
He was also a mural painter and painted murals for the state capitol building in Minnesota and the Essex and Houston County courthouses in New Jersey.