Arthurs (1877-1950), from Kenton, Delaware, studied at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, then he became one of the selected students of Howard Pyle, the great illustrator. At the Howard Pyle School in Wilmington, Delaware Arthurs met N.C. Wyeth, the western illustrator Frank E. Schoonover and others. Pyle limited the enrollment to applicants who showed “imagination and enthusiasm, artistic ability and drawing technique.” (Douglas Allen and Douglas Allen, Jr., N. C. Wyeth: The Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals. New York: Bonanza Books, 1972, p. 21). Arthurs was a success; he joined the Wilmington Society of Fine Arts and the prestigious Salmagundi Club in New York, and in 1900 Harper’s accepted his first illustration. Later Arthurs became a contributor to Scribner’s.
His specialty was American historical subjects: Samuels and Samuels (The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1976, p. 11), describe how Arthurs researched these subjects “in depth so that each detail of an illustration would be accurate.” In 1917, Arthurs exhibited an illustration, The Romance of 1812, and Road over the Mountains at the Society of Independent Artists. Some of Arthurs’ illustrated books include The Children’s Longfellow, The American Historical Scene and Bigelow Papers. Arthurs was both the author and illustrator of Early Steamboat Days and On the Old Boston Post Road. The American Historical Scene (1936) contains fifty of Arthurs’ illustrations.
In some works Arthurs depicts bustling, urban life, recalling works by members of the Eight, or the Ash Can School — especially William Glackens and George Luks. In particular, one might compare the broad, painterly forms, a profusion of black, a limited color range, and everyday, unidealized types of figures, which all relate to the Ash Can School. Arthurs took over Pyle’s studio after the later died in 1911.
Written and submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.