Born March 5, 1853, in Wilmington DE; died November 9, 1911, in Florence, Italy; son of William (an owner of a leather business) and Margaret Churchman (Painter) Pyle; married Anne Poole (a singer), April 12, 1881; children: seven. Education: Attended private schools, art school in Philadelphia for three years, and Art Student's League in New York; studied under F. A. Van der Wielan. Religion: Society of Friends (Quaker).
Author, artist, painter, teacher of illustration, and writer of children's stories; employed as an illustrator for Scribner's Monthly; taught illustration at Drexel Institute of Arts and Sciences in Philadelphia, PA, 1894-1900, later establishing his own art school in Wilmington, DE.
National Institute of Arts and Letters, Associate National Academy, National Academy, Century Club (New York, NY), Franklin Inn Club (Philadelphia, PA).
Within the Capes, Scribner (New York, NY), 1885.
(Editor) Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin, The Buccaneers and Marooners of America, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1891.
Rejected of Men: A Story of To-day, Harper (New York, NY), 1903.
King Stork, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1973.
The Swan Maiden, afterword by Ellin Greene, illustrated by Robert Sauber, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1994.
Bearskin, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, after-word by Peter Glassman, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1997.
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire, Scribner (New York, NY), 1883.
Pepper and Salt; or, Seasoning for Young Folk, Harper (New York, NY), 1885.
Otto of the Silver Hand, Scribner (New York, NY), 1888.
The Wonder Clock; or, Four and Twenty Marvellous Tales, Being One for Each Hour of the Day (with verses by sister, Katherine Pyle), Harper (New York, NY), 1888.
The Rose of Paradise, Harper (New York, NY), 1888.
Book of Pirates, Harper, 1891, published as Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates, edited by Merle Johnson, Harper (New York, NY), 1921.
Men of Iron, Harper (New York, NY), 1892.
A Modern Aladdin; or, The Wonderful Adventures of Oliver Munier, Harper (New York, NY), 1892.
The Story of Jack Ballister's Fortunes, Century (New York, NY), 1895.
Twilight Land, Harper (New York, NY), 1895.
The Garden behind the Moon: A Real Story of the Moon Angel, Scribner (New York, NY), 1895.
The Price of Blood: An Extravaganza of New York Life in 1807, R. G. Badger, 1899.
The Story of the Champions of the Round Table, Scribner (New York, NY), 1905.
Stolen Treasure (stories), Harper (New York, NY), 1907.
(With Winthrop Packard, Molly Elliot Seawell, and others) Strange Stories of the Revolution, Harper (New York, NY), 1907.
The Story of Sir Launcelot and His Companions, Scribner (New York, NY), 1907.
(With J. H. Upshur, Paul Hull, Reginald Gourlay, and others) Adventures of Pirates and Sea-Rovers, Harper (New York, NY), 1908, reprinted as Tales of Pirates and Buccaneers, edited by Gregory R. Suriano, Children's Classics (New York, NY), 1994.
The Ruby of Kishmoor, Harper (New York, NY), 1908.
The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur, Scribner (New York, NY), 1910.
Yankee Doodle: An Old Friend in a New Dress, Dodd (New York, NY), 1881.
Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lady of Shalott, Dodd (New York, NY), 1881.
Charles Carleton Coffin, Old Times in the Colonies, Harper (New York, NY), 1881.
Rossiter Johnson, Phaeton Rogers, Scribner (New York, NY), 1881.
William Makepeace Thackeray, The Chronicle of the Drum, Scribner (New York, NY), 1882.
Helen Campbell, Under Green Apple Boughs, Fords, Howard, 1882.
Will Carlton, Farm Ballads, Harper (New York, NY), 1882.
James Baldwin, Story of Siegfried, 1882.
C. C. Coffin, Building the Nation: Events in the History of the United States from the Revolution to the Beginning of the War between the States, Harper (New York, NY), 1883.
Horace E. Scudder, A History of the United States of America Preceded by a Narrative of the Discovery and Settlement of North America and of the Events Which Led to the Independence of the Thirteen English Colonies for the Use of Schools and Academies, Sheldon, 1884.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Illustrated Poems, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1885.
Francis S. Drake, Indian History for Young Folks, Harper (New York, NY), 1885.
Driedrich Knickerbocker (pseudonym of Washington Irving), A History of New York, two volumes, Grolier Club, 1886.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, A Larger History of the United States of America, Harper (New York, NY), 1886.
Will Carlton, City Ballads, Harper (New York, NY), 1886.
Baldwin, Story of the Golden Age (also see below), Scribner (New York, NY), 1887.
Thomas Buchanan Read, The Closing Scene, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1887.
Elbridge S. Brooks, Storied Holidays: A Cycle of Historic Red-Letter Days, D. Lothrop, 1887.
Edmund Clarence Stedman, The Star Bearer, D. Lothrop, 1888.
Wallace Bruce, Old Homestead Poems, Harper (New York, NY), 1888.
Lafcadio Hearn, Youma: The Story of a West Indian Slave, Harper (New York, NY), 1890.
Harold Frederic, In the Valley, Scribner (New York, NY), 1890.
John Greenleaf Whittier, The Captain's Well, New York Ledger (New York, NY), 1890.
James Lane Allen, Flute and Violin, and Other Kentucky Tales and Romances, Harper (New York, NY), 1891.
O. W. Holmes, One Hoss Shay, with Its Companion Poems, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1892.
O. W. Holmes, Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, two volumes, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1892.
Dorothy Q. Holmes, Together with a Ballad of the Boston Tea Party and Grandmother's Story of the Bunker Hill Battle, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1893.
O. W. Holmes, Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, two volumes, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1893.
John Flavel Mines, A Tour around New York [and] My Summer Acre, Harper (New York, NY), 1893.
Charles Carleton Coffin, Abraham Lincoln, Harper (New York, NY), 1893.
Mary E. Wilkens, Giles Corey, Harper (New York, NY), 1893.
Thomas A. Janvier, In Old New York, Harper (New York, NY), 1894.
William Dean Howells, Stops of Various Quills, Harper (New York, NY), 1895.
E. S. Brooks, Great Men's Shoes, Putnam (New York, NY), 1895.
E. S. Brooks, The True Story of George Washington, D. Lothrop, 1895.
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Parasite: A Story, Harper (New York, NY), 1895.
Silas Weir Mitchell, Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker, Century (New York, NY), 1896.
T. N. Page, In Ole Virginia, Scribner (New York, NY), 1896.
Henry Van Dyke, First Christmas Tree, Scribner (New York, NY), 1897.
Mary E. Burt, Odysseus, the Hero of Ithaca (includes illustrations previously published in Story of the Golden Age), Scribner (New York, NY), 1898.
Henry Cabot Lodge, Story of the Revolution, Scribner (New York, NY), 1898.
Ernest Ingersoll, The Book of Oceans, Century (New York, NY), 1898.
Mary E. Wilkens, Silence, and Other Stories, Harper (New York, NY), 1898.
Margaret Deland, Old Chester Tales, Harper (New York, NY), 1899.
Mary Johnston, To Have and to Hold, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1900.
Edwin Markham, The Man with the Hoe, and Other Poems (also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1900.
Charles Holmes, editor, Modern Pen Drawings European and American (includes illustrations previously published in The Man with the Hoe), The Studio, 1901.
Maud Wilder Goodwin, Sir Christopher: A Romance of a Maryland Manor in 1644, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1901.
Robert Neilson, Captain Renshaw; or, The Maid of Cheapside: A Romance of Elizabethan London (also see below), L. C. Page, 1901.
Hartman, Sadakichi, A History of American Art (includes illustrations previously published in Captain Renshaw), L. C. Page, 1901.
Woodrow Wilson, A History of the American People, five volumes, Harper (New York, NY), 1902, published with additional illustrations, Harper (New York, NY), 1918.
Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History, ten volumes, Harper (New York, NY), 1902.
Wilbur F. Gordy, A History of the United States, Scribner (New York, NY), 1904.
Justus Miles Forman, The Island of Enchantment, Harper (New York, NY), 1905.
J. B. Cabell, The Line of Love, Harper (New York, NY), 1905.
John Greenleaf Whittier, Snow Bound: A Winter Idyl, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1906.
J. B. Cabell, Gallantry: An Eighteenth Century Dizain, Harper (New York, NY), 1907.
Henry Peterson, Dulcibel: A Tale of Old Salem, Winston, 1907.
J. B. Cabell, Chivalry, Harper (New York, NY), 1909.
L. E. Chittenden, Lincoln and the Sleeping Sentinel, Harper (New York, NY), 1909.
Margaret Sutton Briscoe, John Kendrick Bangs, and others, Harper's Book of Little Plays, Harper (New York, NY), 1910.
William Makepeace Thackeray, The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray, edited by Lady Ritchie, Harper (New York, NY), 1910.
William Gilmore Beymer, On Hazardous Service: Scouts and Spies of the North and South, Harper (New York, NY), 1912.
Don Seitz, The Buccaneers, Harper (New York, NY), 1912.
Fanny E. Coe, Founders of Our Country, American Book Co., 1912.
J. B. Cabell, The Soul of Melicent, F. Stokes, 1913.
W. H. W. Bicknell, Etchings, Bibliophile Society, 1913.
Margaret Deland, Around Old Chester, Harper (New York, NY), 1915.
W. F. Gordy, Stories of Later American History, Scribner (New York, NY), 1915.
Mark Twain (pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens), Saint Joan Of Arc, Harper (New York, NY), 1919.
Francis J. Dowd, editor, Book of the American Spirit, Harper (New York, NY), 1923.
Henry Gilbert, Robin Hood, Magazine Press, 1964.
Contributor to the anthologies School and Playground (stories), D. Lothrop, 1891; Shapes that Haunt the Dusk, edited by Howells, Harper (New York, NY), 1907; and The Book of Laughter, Putnam (New York, NY), 1911, edited by Katherine N. Birdsall and George Haven Putnam. Contributor of illustrations and writings to various periodicals and newspapers, including Chicago Tribune, Collier's Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Monthly, Harper's Young People, Ladies' Home Journal, St. Nicholas, and Scribner's.
Men of Iron was adapted for film as The Black Shield of Falworth, starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Universal Pictures, 1954; The Wonder Clock was adapted for the stage as Wonder Clock Plays by Sophie L. Goldsmith, Harper, 1925; The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire, was adapted for the stage as Robin Hood Plays Matchmaker (one-act) and The Apple of Contentment (one-act), both 1939, and Three Strangers Come to Sherwood (one-act), 1942, all by Mary T. Pyle and published by Dramatists Play Service; The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, read by Ian Richardson, was released in recorded form as Tales of King Arthur and His Knights, by Caedmon, 1975..
Howard Pyle was a prolific author, editor, and illustrator, remembered for his adaptations of the Robin Hood story and Arthurian legends. He was also influential as a teacher of illustration; former students such as early twentieth-century artists N. C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish recalled him as a demanding yet generous and devoted master. Through his skill and his tutelage Pyle was largely responsible for establishing a new standard of excellence in turn-ofthe-century American graphic art.
Pyle was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on March 5, 1853, to William Pyle, the owner of a leather business, and Margaret Churchman Painter Pyle. He recalled in the April 1912 Women's Home Companion that his childhood was a "bright and happy" one during which his mother instilled in him a love of books and illustrations, reading to him from adventure stories such as Robinson Crusoe and other classics like Pilgrim's Progress, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and The Arabian Nights. The lush gardens in which he played stimulated his imagination, and he aspired to become a storyteller before he could even read or write.
By his own recollection an indifferent student, Pyle attended the Friend's School in Wilmington and later the small private school of T. Clarkson Taylor. He resisted his parents' desire that he attend university, set instead on a career as an artist, and subsequently studied painting in Philadelphia with F. A. Van der Wielan. After three years under Van der Wielan, Pyle returned home to Wilmington and his father's leather business.
Pyle's first break as an artist came in 1876, when he wrote and illustrated a story about his visit to the Chincoteague Islands off the Maryland-Virginia coast. The piece, "Chincoteague: The Island of Ponies," was accepted by Scribner's Monthly magazine for its April 1877, issue. Encouraged by this success and by the urging of Roswell Smith, one of the owners of Scribner's, Pyle decided to move to New York.
Pyle spent an impoverished eighteen months in New York before his first important piece, "A Wreck in the Offing" was accepted by Harper's Weekly. This effort, for which he was paid seventy-five dollars, confirmed in Pyle's mind not only his life's career, but the future importance of illustration to the art world. Soon he left New York to return again to Wilmington, finding, as he wrote in a 1909 issue of Harper's Weekly, "the diversions in New York too many and attractive for sustained and serious effort." Back in Wilmington he settled into the work routine—shut in his studio from morning until nightfall—that made possible his prodigious output.
In 1883 Pyle saw published one of his best-known works, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire. He had first conceived of the project while in New York, hoping to sell stories and illustrations based on the famous outlaw to the juvenile magazine St. Nicholas. He approached the project with his customary care, extensively researching costumes, architectural styles, and settings; his main literary source was Joseph Ritson's 1795 collection of Robin Hood ballads. As was the case throughout his career, he created not just the stories, but the whole book: text, illustrations, and even a form of calligraphy featured in headings and captions. Pyle had been raised in a Quaker family, but he loved high adventure, and his Robin Hood stories are filled with excitement. Many of the episodes of the Robin Hood tales most vividly remembered by readers—Robin's contest on the log with Little John, for example, and his enlistment of Friar Tuck—were popularized by Pyle's version.
Earlier, in April 1881, Pyle married Anne Poole, a singer. They eventually had seven children; but tragedy struck the Pyle family in 1889. While the couple vacationed in Jamaica, their seven-year-old son, Sellers, died unexpectedly. The boy was buried before the Pyles could return home. In his grief Pyle wrote The Garden behind the Moon, a fairy-tale that is also a meditation on the necessity of accepting death
Adding to the demands on his time posed by work and family, Pyle began teaching illustration in 1894. He taught first at Drexel Institute of Arts and Sciences in Philadelphia, but by the turn of the century had set up his own school in Wilmington. Pyle's students came away from their studies with vivid, fond memories of their teacher, whose course of study included enjoying the activities rural Delaware had to offer: hunting, bicycle riding, and evening walks. Pyle in his teaching stressed the dramatic—he required that his pupils write stories as well as illustrate them, and that they imaginatively insert themselves into any scene they were attempting to depict.
In 1903 Pyle suggested to the publisher Scribner's that he adapt a series of adventure tales from the legends of King Arthur, a saga based on a sixth-century English leader. Already in his career Pyle had written and illustrated two chivalric novels; Otto of the Silver Hand is a grim tale of life in the Middle Ages bearing little resemblance to the rousing adventures of Robin Hood; Men of Iron is a more straightforward adventure yarn set in the year 1400. Neither work was particularly successful. For his Arthur books Pyle drew background material from a variety of sources; his chief problem in retelling the legends was condensing the wealth of information into four volumes.
The series, beginning with The Story of King Arthur and His Knights and extending through The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur, is still enjoyed today, despite the difficult style Pyle used to emulate medieval speech. The author downplayed some of the legend's sexual themes, concentrating instead on adventure and the nobility of his chivalric heroes. He turns many episodes of his Arthur stories into homilies, stressing the higher virtues of a knight over his more violent qualities.
Pyle traveled to Europe in 1910, the year the last Arthur book was published. The trip was an opportunity to see firsthand the many famous paintings he had previously studied only in books. The works of the masters made a great impression on him, but his enjoyment was tragically cut short. He suffered an attack of renal colic in Italy and never fully recovered. He died in Florence in November 1911.
Pyle greatly influenced children's literature and the course of American graphic art. His vivid and exciting retellings of Anglo-Saxon myths have popularized them for American audiences for nearly a century. As an artist he approached his craft with skill and integrity, setting a high standard of quality for illustrations that audiences have admired for generations after his death.
If you enjoy the works of Howard Pyle
you might want to check out the following books:
Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1883.
William Morris, The Well at the World's End, 1896.
Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, Mutiny on the Bounty, 1932.
Rosemarie Suttcliff, The Shining Company, 1990.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Abbot, Charles, Howard Pyle: A Chronicle, Harper (New York, NY), 1923.
Agosta, Lucien L., Howard Pyle, Twayne, 1987.
Bingham, Jane M., editor, Writers for Children, Scribner (New York, NY), 1988.
The Brandywine Heritage: Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, James Wyeth, New York Graphic Society (Greenwich, CT), 1971.
Brokaw, Howard Pyle, The Howard Pyle Studio: A History, Studio Group (Wilmington, DE), 1983.
Brown, Ann Barton, Howard Pyle, a Teacher: The Formal Years, 1894-1905, Brandywine River Museum (Chadds Ford, PA), 1980.
Delaware Art Museum, Howard Pyle: Diversity in Depth, Wilmington Society of Fine Arts (Wilmington, DE), 1973.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 42: American Writers for Children before 1900, 1985, Volume 188: American Book and Magazine Illustrators to 1920, 1998.
Elzea, Rowland, Howard Pyle, Scribner (New York, NY), 1975.
Morse, W. S., and Gertrude Brincklé, Howard Pyle: A Record of His Illustrations and Writings, Wilmington Society of Fine Arts (Wilmington, DE), 1921.
Nesbitt, Elizabeth, Howard Pyle, Walek, 1966.
Pitz, Henry C., The Brandywine Tradition, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1969.
Pitz, Henry C., Howard Pyle: Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine School, Clarkson N. Potter, 1975.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Writers for Children, Scribner (New York, NY), 1988.
Art and Progress, October, 1915, Frank E. Schoonover, "Howard Pyle," pp. 431-438.
California Librarian, April-July, 1971, David Maxim, "Medieval Children's Books of Howard Pyle."
Children's Literature Association Quarterly, Number 8, 1984, Jill P. May, editor, "Howard Pyle Commemorative Issue."
Harper's Weekly, July 17, 1897, Howard Pyle, "A Small School of Art," pp. 710-711; June 12, 1909.
Horn Book, Volume 7, Number 2, 1931, Thornton Oakley, "Howard Pyle," pp. 91-97; May, 1944, Lynd Ward, "The Book Artist: Yesterday and Tomorrow," pp. 231-242; October, 1962, Henry C. Pitz, "The Art of Illustration," pp. 454-457.
International Studio, Number 4, 1897, Gleeson White, "Children's Books and Their Illustrators."
Mentor, June, 1927, John W. Vandercook, "Howard Pyle: Artist, Author, Founder of a School of Illustration," pp. 1-14, and N. C. Wyeth, "Howard Pyle as I Knew Him," pp. 15-17.
Ontario Library Review, May, 1964, Marilyn Hilton, "Shining Knight of the Golden Age," p. 48.
Outlook, February 23, 1907, Jessie Trimble, "The Founder of an American School of Art," pp. 453-460.
Woman's Home Companion, April, 1912, Howard Pyle, "When I Was a Little Boy."*