Norman Rockwell Museum Presents Major Retrospective of Illustrator Howard Pyle

"An Attack on a Galleon," Howard Pyle, 1905. Oil on canvas, 29 1/2” x 19 1/2” Delaware Art Museum, Museum Purchase, 1912

(STOCKBRIDGE, Mass.) – Howard Pyle (1853 – 1911) was one of America’s most popular illustrators and storytellers during a period of explosive growth in the publishing industry. A celebrity in his lifetime, Pyle’s widely circulated images of pirates, knights, and historical figures were featured in publications such as Harper’s Monthly and were admired by such artists and authors as Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Twain, and Norman Rockwell. In celebration of the centenary of Pyle’s death and the lasting influence of the artist’s work, Norman Rockwell Museum will present the new exhibition, Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered from June 9 through October 28, 2012.

Organized by the Delaware Art Museum, in Wilmington, Delaware, Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered features 79 original paintings and drawings created by Pyle between 1876 and 1910, on loan from the Delaware Art Museum, which was founded in 1912 to preserve and exhibit Pyle’s work following his death. The exhibition presents a fresh perspective on Pyle’s imagery, exploring his interaction with the art and culture of 19th-century art.

“When Howard Pyle died in 1911, he left behind an extensive body of over 3,000 works of art and a lasting legacy of inspired teaching,” says Stephanie Plunkett, chief curator at Norman Rockwell Museum. “This exhibition features an outstanding selection of the artist’s best known and rarely seen paintings, drawings, prints, and archival materials that shed light on the artist’s career as a painter and a consummate storyteller in a changing world at the cusp of the 20th century. “

Howard Pyle at his studio easel, taken by C.P.M. Runeford, 1898 Howard Pyle Manuscript Collection

“Admired by Norman Rockwell and his contemporaries, Pyle’s exacting working methods resulted in the creation of artworks of singular beauty and refinement with innovative compositional structures,” notes Dr. Joyce K. Schiller, curator of the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies at Norman Rockwell Museum. “His extraordinary skill was strengthened by his conviction that illustration was an act of self revelation, and he encouraged students like N.C. Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, and Frank Schoonover to understand their subjects by imagining themselves in them. The artist’s powerful paintings of pirates and historical and literary themes continue to spark the imagination, as reflected in the works on view.”

The exhibition catalogue features essays by Norman Rockwell Museum curators Stephanie Plunkett and Joyce K. Schiller, Ph.D., along with other leading scholars on Howard Pyle’s work.

Pyle’s unique approach to the art of illustration was honed through the intensive, self-directed study of the art of his time, which he experienced both in the original as well as through illustrated periodicals and books, reproductive prints, and fine art reproductions. The exhibition will include Pyle’s paintings alongside related works by contemporary American and European artists, as well as selected paintings by Norman Rockwell, to show the cross-currents in both fine and commercial art.

Visions of the Past concentrates on Pyle’s depictions of history, including Roman gladiators and Medieval knights. His views of the classical world drew inspiration from the work of the French academic artist Jean-Leon Gérome (1824 – 1904) and his numerous depictions of the Middle Ages show how conversant Pyle was with the works of the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelites.

Pyle’s pirate imagery is based on his own personal archive of costume books and historic manuscripts; however, his use of strong diagonals, flat compositional arrangements, and restrained placement of color suggests an understanding of the art world’s new-found interest in Japanese ukiyo-e prints. The contemporary art world was obsessed with Japanese art as reflected in the work of James McNeill Whistler, James Tissot, and Edgar Degas, among others.

The Mermaid, 1910 Howard Pyle (1853-1911) Oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 40 1/8 inches Gift of the children of Howard Pyle in memory of their mother, Anne Poole Pyle, 1940

Fairytale and Fantasy will focus on Pyle’s fairy tales and children’s illustrations, which show his knowledge of European illustrators, including Walter Crane (1845 – 1915) and Kate Greenaway (1846 – 1901). His depictions of the world of make-believe also reflect many of the themes and methods of European Aesthetic and Symbolist art.

America – Past and Present highlights Pyle’s enthusiasm for the American Colonial Revival of the 1880s, which celebrated the history of the United States. Many of Pyle’s iconic Revolutionary War scenes seem to have been strengthened by knowledge of the work of the French Salon artist, Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1814 – 1891), whose military scenes of the Napoleonic Wars were immensely popular.

Exhibition-Related Programs and Events

Saturday, June 9, 2012
6 to 10:30 p.m.

Celebrate the opening of Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered with a spirited exhibition opening and dance party. View original art from one of the nation’s most important visual storytellers: an artist often referred to as the grandfather of American illustration. Remarks begin at 6:30 p.m. by Margaretta S. Frederick, Chief Curator/Curator of the Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Collection, Delaware Art Museum, followed by the dedication of Norman Rockwell Museum’s “Distinguished Scholar Award” to Walt Reed, whose contributions to scholarship relating to the art of illustration are unrivaled in the field.

The fun continues with the Swagger & Dagger Dance Party, featuring the lively sounds of the Berkshire Bateria, and a special pirate treasure auction to benefit Norman Rockwell Museum. A cocktail buffet and raw bar will also be served. Dress to impress with your finest pirate garments or festive attire.

Tickets for the full event start at $150, $125 for Museum members; admission to the dance and dessert portion of the party only cost $50, $40 for Museum members. For more information or to RSVP, please call 413.931.2264, or email


Buried Treasures: Perspectives on Pyle
Thursdays, July 5 through August 30, 5:30 p.m.

Howard Pyle’s artworks serve as the inspiration for a lively, eclectic program series that brings his dynamic images to life. Featured programs include:

July 5: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Tanglewood Tales” performed by Rob Valella

July 12: “Howard Pyle as Picturemaker” with illustrator James Gurney

July 19: “Pyle, Piracy, and the Silver Screen” with author David M. Lubin

July 26: “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl”: A Fun-Filled Movie Night

August 9: “Bawdy Songs and Buried Treasures”: An A Cappella Evening with Quintessential

August 16: “Will the Real Howard Pyle Please Stand Up?” An Evening with Howard Pyle blogger and illustrator Ian Schoenherr.

August 23: “Howard Pyle and His Students” with Norman Rockwell Museum curator Joyce K. Schiller, Ph.D.

August 30: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”: A Fun-Filled Movie Night

Free with Museum admission, members free.




Illustration Boot Camp: An Intensive Hands-On Immersion
Monday, July 9 through Friday, July 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

An inspiring drawing and painting experience with dynamic illustrator/educator Lynn Pauley. $225, $195 members.

Masterpiece: Classical Painting Techniques
Monday, July 16 through Friday July 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

An immersion in the painting techniques of Golden Age illustrators with award-winning artist Gregory Manchess.  $225, $195 members.

Art of the Story: Digital Animation
Monday, July 30 through Friday, August 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A sequential art workshop exploring the techniques of computer animation with creative animator and cartoonist Scott Lincoln. $150, $125 members.

Beautiful Simplicity: The Art of Oil Painting
Friday and Saturday, August 10 and 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A Pyle-inspired look at mood, composition, and narrative in oil painting with noted picture book artist Ruth Sanderson.  $95, $75 members.


Golden Age: Howard Pyle and American Illustration
With illustrator/educator Murray Tinkelman
Saturday, July 14, 1 p.m.

Free with Museum admission, members free.


Arthurian Legends and Gold Dubloons!
Saturday, August 4, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

King Arthur, Captain Kidd, and the patriots of the American Revolution spring from Howard Pyle’s illustrations during this exciting day of adventure for families. Free with Museum admission, members free.

Wednesday, September 19

Talk like a pirate and wear your pirate gear and receive half-price admission. Fun and treats await you!

Norman Rockwell Museum is the preeminent museum of American illustration art. Dedicated to art education and art appreciation inspired by the enduring legacy of Norman Rockwell, the Museum stewards the world’s largest and most significant collection of Rockwell art, and presents the works of contemporary and past masters of illustration. The Museum’s holdings include Rockwell’s last studio, moved from its original location to the Museum grounds, and the Norman Rockwell Archives, a 200,000-object collection undergoing digital preservation through ProjectNORMAN, “A Save America’s Treasures Project.” The Museum is also home to the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, the nation’s first research institute devoted to the art of illustration. In 2008, Norman Rockwell Museum became the first-ever museum recipient of the National Humanities Medal, America’s highest honor in the field.

Norman Rockwell Museum is located on 36 park-like acres in Stockbridge,  Massachusetts, Rockwell’s hometown for the last 25 years of his life. The Museum is open year-round; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. From May through October, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; from November through April, hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Rockwell’s studio is open May through October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Museum admission is $16, $14.50 for seniors, $10 for students, $5 for kids, and teens 6 to 18, and free for Museum member, active military personnel, and children 5 and under.




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