Saturday, January 28, 2012


Howard Pyle illustrated more than 125 books. 

Of those books, he wrote 24 himself. 

Of those 24 books, one-- Pepper and Salt-- contained 90 of his illustrations.

Of those 90 illustrations, one was this small pen and ink headpiece of a girl with 17 geese:

Many thanks to Molly and Mary at the Delaware Art Museum for locating this drawing that I recalled seeing there 20 years ago.

The first thing you notice about these 17 geese is that Pyle treated each one differently, with its own angle or stance or personality.  Each has its own dignity: 

There are no stray lines to suggest geese in the background that Pyle didn't feel like drawing completely.  No Photoshop.  No photocopiers.

Charles Dickens wrote:
I should never have made my success in life if I had been shy of taking pains, or if I had not bestowed upon the least thing I have ever undertaken exactly the same attention and care that I have bestowed upon the greatest.


Blogger etc, etc said...

I suppose this comparison is inevitable.

1/28/2012 1:57 PM  
Blogger Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

What a wonderful blog this is. Reading a post is like unwrapping a gift from a friend who shares a passion and surprises you with things you have never seen he somehow knows you will love. Thanks for your insight and generosity.


1/29/2012 11:45 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Pyle was brilliant at painting big oil paintings as well as small drawings. I saw the Delaware show after you wrote about it and he was incredible

1/29/2012 1:21 PM  
Anonymous Regina said...

Thank you for your welcoming message, David!
It seems to me that Howard Pyle was watching and drawing the same one goose. Though he did not put his drawings in the sequence the way the animators do it today, yet this one drawing has an effect of animation.

...Yes, I am from Russia, but I am not from Moscow, St.Petersburg or Ulyanovsk. I am from Odessa. Besides, I grew up listening to adults reading and discussing literature from Samizdat. Radio station The Voice of America was my favorite bad time story.

1/29/2012 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Rehan said...

Yeah,I think a bit of economy has been exercised here, it's just effectively hidden.The mark of a true illustrator.

1/29/2012 2:57 PM  
Blogger Coldmoon said...

I just spent 2 hours here! Great illos and ideas. I'm love the fact that you include the great comic book/strip masters among the noteworthy. I actually haven't seen On Stage, but you've got me motivated to check it out.
BTW, how about treating your visitors to Jean Giraud, alias Moebius?

1/29/2012 6:05 PM  
Blogger chris bennett said...

I'm not sure when Pyle drew this, but James Guthrie made this painting... 1883.
It doesn't take anything away from the truth your statement about Pyle's drawing however. Just that Pyle was perhaps in great admiration of Guthrie and his painting. (That said, he does seem to have turned the ethos of the Scottish 'Glasgow Boys' somewhat on its head!)

1/30/2012 4:10 AM  
Blogger Joyce said...

I've long loved Pyle's early drawing style--spare yes, but with a skilled humorous line. I am also extremely fond of his silhouette style of illustrations. They too are lovely drawings only focused on the elaboration of the edges of things.

Early in his career or later, Pyle's fun is in telling the story visually in such a way that the reader/viewer wants to immerse themselves in the details as well as the big picture.

1/30/2012 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Regina said...

This drawing goes so organically with the lettering of the text. It is composed like a phrase. First comes elaborately designed capital letter: the figure of the girl with the tree. The geese like letters run from left to right. The last goose is singled out: period.

1/30/2012 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with Photoshop. It's a tool, like a paintbrush. It's what you do with it.

- Hoffmann

1/31/2012 5:10 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

"The last goose is singled out: period." Exactly! I never thought of it like that but you are exactly spot on.

1/31/2012 5:39 PM  
Blogger StimmeDesHerzens said...

Re:I think he was just making fun of me for something I wrote about Peter Max's Rolls Royce.

Well ok that explains that~ I was terribly awe-struck after I read that blip—(altho i figured that might be the norm for hi-powered NY attorneys). So it wasn’t a limo but a Rolls Royce; leave it to Rob (yes we miss him altho he was a tad conceited) to add the final touch to make the image devastatingly complete! Ach, now reality sets in! However you will always be my favorite writer, and my most favorite sleuth in finding the most exceptional art, which has now been confirmed with the individualistic geese in Howard Pyle’s illustration. I am looking forward to something as brilliant and touching in your valentine card....

2/01/2012 1:33 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc and Chris Bennett-- Pyle's book was published in 1885. I don't know how long before that he started working on these illustrations. Guthrie painted his painting on another continent in 1883. What I infer from this is that on both continents it was common for girls to be put to work herding geese. If you look for "girl with geese" in google images you get over 3 million hits including many side views, such as this one and this one. It seems to me that the Pyle and the Guthrie involve different aesthetics, poses, costumes, etc. but perhaps you disagree?

Peter Dunlap-Shohl-- Thank you so much for your kind words.

MORAN-- I agree, Pyle is fabulous, and still under rated today. He was very prolific and some of his work was spotty, but I have never seen a Frazetta painting that came close to impressing me the way that Pyle's "Attack on a Galleon" did.

2/01/2012 11:29 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Regina-- Well, we are glad to have you over here now. Did you find Babel's book about Odessa true to life? I agree with Jenny, I never thought of this line of geese running like a sentence from left to right, but it seems to be one reason this headpiece is integrated so beautifully. Excellent notion.

Rehan-- I agree.

Coldmoon-- I am honored by your two hour investment, thanks very much. I do enjoy work of Moebius; I'm not sure I have anything new to bring to table with him (no high res images of original art, or unpublished drawings) but I may just succumb to temptation and write something anyway.

2/01/2012 11:41 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joyce-- yes, and he succeeded so often. He was really marvelous.

Hoffman-- I agree, Photoshop is merely a tool, although a groundbreaking tool and one which some artists use brilliantly. Don't you also think, however, that it is a tool that can encourage sloth on the part of artists, or unfair expectations on the part of art directors? It creates temptations that other tools don't, and that require strength of character to resist.

Jenny-- As I noted above in my response to Regina, I concur.

StimmeDesHerzens-- I started posting my valentines when I ran out of time to both draw a valentine and write a blog post in the same week. You are very kind to remember. Perhaps if my day job cooperates I can be a little better organized this year.

2/01/2012 11:55 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/02/2012 9:23 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

but perhaps you disagree?

I was not trying to make any kind of "copycat" accusation; I certainly believe ideas can occur simultaneously, and a "copycat" accusation can sound a bit infantile, or, it's even possible that Guthrie was inspired by Pyle. However, from my perspective the Guthrie seems to be a more popular and well know image. I did go through an ardent 19th century fine art phase, where for a few years I had catalogue subscriptions to every Christie's and Sotheby's 19th Century sale worldwide, and based upon that sampling I would guess that a "girl with geese" theme, to say nothing of a frieze-like arrangement, is not as popular and frequent as one might think; however, I'll be the first to admit that my familiarity with what was going on in illustration during that period is comparatively meager.

2/02/2012 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Regina said...

Hi!I read Babel when I was a High School student. I find him extremely realistic.
At that time you could not find Babel on the book shelves. I had to go through a lot of bureaucratic barriers in order to get an excess to the archive copy .
Babel is not an author to be read solitary in the quite of the archives. He was so brilliant and so politically incorrect.
I was truly upset that Babel's big mouth characters and the sunny streets of Odessa were imprisoned.

2/02/2012 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Regina said...

Hi!I read Babel when I was a High School student. I find him extremely realistic.
At that time you could not find Babel on the book shelves. I had to go through a lot of bureaucratic barriers in order to get an excess to the archive copy .
Babel is not an author to be read solitary in the quite of the archives. He was so brilliant and so politically incorrect.
I was truly upset that Babel's big mouth characters and the sunny streets of Odessa were imprisoned.

2/02/2012 4:43 PM  
Blogger chris bennett said...

David Apatoff-- "It seems to me that the Pyle and the Guthrie involve different aesthetics, poses, costumes, etc. but perhaps you disagree?"

It’s certainly true that girls shooing geese was a common sight in those days and it may be no more than a coincidence.
But something else prompted me wonder about this; the similarity between a painting by one of Pyle’s contemporaries and another work by Guthrie.

Harvey Dunn’s ‘The Prairie is my Garden’ and Guthrie’s ‘The Hind’s Daughter’ have a central figure and picture construction that leaves no doubt in my mind that Dunn had seen Guthrie’s picture a few years earlier.
I emailed Kev Ferrara about it. – He made an interesting observation about the dramatic theme being different although much was similar compositionally.

2/03/2012 5:44 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Great detective work, Chris. Guthrie was the Bastien-Lepage disciple par excellence; no doubt about that.

2/03/2012 9:04 AM  
Blogger Matthew Harwood said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/04/2012 12:32 AM  
Blogger Matthew Harwood said...

As an experiment, I used Google Images' new "Search by Image" function (click the little camera in the box) to find similar images on the internet to Pyle's geese herding drawing. Interesting enough, the “visually similar images” link showed mostly flowchart diagrams and oriental text, which in a way makes sense since Pyle was abstracting the essence of the subject with the fewest number lines.

2/04/2012 1:03 AM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Nice try guys… peasant girl, wearing sabots, knitting, tending geese.

Jules Breton's* The Song of the Lark entered the The Art Institute of Chicago's collection in 1894. (Dunn studied there for 2 years.) One wonders what Dunn thought of it.

see also ~ Berwickshire Field-workers  1884

* "In my opinion, up to Millet and Jules Breton there was, however, always progress; but to surpass these two–don't even talk about it." ~ Vincent van Gogh

2/04/2012 6:58 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I was just going to mention the clear influence of Breton on Dunn. Particularly his Girl Driving Oxen illo from the Prairie Wife in 1915, which, like several of his salt of the earth-themed sun setting on a stoical farm hand with a stick tending a lumbering beast bolted to a plow type works, has some of the same quality as Breton's Song of the Lark.

Breton's influence on Dunn was a very good thing, imho.

2/04/2012 12:23 PM  
Blogger Regina said...

Pyle's geese made me also (like Matthew Harwood's "Search by Image" program) think of oriental art. You have here everything: linear drawing, understated, very carefully balanced. I just don't know what to do with the sabots. Those the girl probably borrowed from Breton, Dunn or Dupre...

2/06/2012 3:32 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

I'm not sure what to make of these various pictures with similar subject matter.

I am perfectly willing to believe that Pyle or Dunn saw one or more of these paintings and retained them in their mental data banks of images. I also believe that girls have knit while tending geese since the time of Homer, but they were never deemed a fitting subject for artists until the 19th century when the focus shifted away from royalty and gods, and became obsessed instead with the nobility of the peasantry. There seems to have been an era when artists positively stampeded toward such subjects.

Unless you have a helicopter to get an aerial view, there are only so many angles for portraying a girl with geese. I'm not sure I would fault any of the artists we have discussed here for being derivative (any more than I would fault 50 landscape artists for including the same trees, grass and hills in their paintings).

2/06/2012 8:26 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Off Topic

Thought you get a kick out of this David

Gerhard's off the Richter scale
"At a conference held before the opening of the Tate exhibition he said: “It’s just as absurd as the banking crisis. It’s impossible to understand, and it’s daft.”

I think people are trying to protect their wealth in hard assets but there still is a lot of truth in what he says.

2/07/2012 7:57 AM  
Blogger Regina said...

After many hours of strenuous mental labor, I came up with the following formula, which should enter the text books.

The difference between the fine art and illustration art:
fine art- first you exhibit your originals, then if you are good,your works will be published;
illustration art- first you publish your works, then if you are good,your originals will be exhibited.

2/08/2012 7:55 PM  
Anonymous market research book said...

nice one....!!!
Business Research

2/09/2012 6:48 AM  
Blogger Gary Locke said...

i needed that

2/20/2012 12:15 PM  
Blogger kozikoz said...

I really love the line, I love that style.

2/25/2012 4:35 PM  
Anonymous said...

I'm not sure when Pyle drew this, but James Guthrie made this painting...

2/28/2012 5:29 AM  
Blogger Sean Miller said...

Very nice work. I like the repetition.

3/15/2012 1:46 PM  

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