Find, Learn, Price Art
Enjoy the comprehensive art database we've compiled since 1987
Membership Details
Images, sales charts, bios, signatures, 30 artist Alerts and more ...
Art auction records:  Millions of references for pricing research
Or, register for Free Alerts
To track 10 artists.

Already a member?  Sign in here

Howard Pyle

 (1853 - 1911)
Howard Pyle was active/lived in Delaware, Pennsylvania.  Howard Pyle is known for illustration, teaching, history and marine genre painting.

Howard Pyle

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Howard Pyle
Known as the man who revolutionized American book illustration in the late 19th century and described as "unquestionably the Renaissance man of American illustration" (Zellman 467), Howard Pyle did highly dramatic, detailed, and colorful illustrations of subjects ranging from American history to childrens' fairy tales.  As a teacher, he had a significant influence on succeeding generations of illustrators including N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Ethel Franklin Betts, Jessie Willcox Smith and Harvey Dunn.

Howard Pyle was born at Wilmington, Delaware, and showing early art talent, commuted to Philadelphia to take classes from F.A. van der Wielen, a Belgian painter.  He wrote and illustrated a poem, and when this was published in 1876, he moved to New York City to be close to national publishers.  There he enrolled in the Art Student's League*.

In New York City he gained attention for his skillful line drawings in the style of Albrecht Durer.  In the 1870s, he began doing illustrations for the childrens' magazine St. Nicholas and then accepted a number of book commissions including Yankee Doodle and Tennyson's Lady of Shalott.  He was author-illustrator of The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, 1883, and illustrated several other books tied to his interest in medieval lore.  In 1902, he began illustrating his own version of the legends of King Arthur.

From 1894, he began teaching classes at Philadelphia's Drexel Institute* of Art, Science and Technology.  The school authorities allowed him plenty of freedom with his teaching methods, which focused on students thinking in terms of the printed page rather than artwork on a wall and of placing themselves into their illustrations.

Four years later, he, established the Brandywine School of Illustration Art* on the Brandywine River near the Delaware/Pennsylvania border.  This resulted from students having been given Drexel Institute scholarships the summer before to study with Pyle at his summer home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania near Wilmington.  Attending these classes, N.C. Wyeth became aware of the charm of the region and subsequently located his family there.

Pyle's only visit to Europe was in the last year of his life, and he died unexpectedly in Florence, Italy on November 9, 1911, at the height of his career.  More than 100 of his works are in the possession of the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary


Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Howard Pyle
The illustrations of HOWARD PYLE (1853-1911) are as exciting now as they were a hundred years ago, while pictures by many of his contemporaries today look dated and mannered.

Several special qualities combined to make Pyle America's foremost illustrator. Pyle was interested in pictures, first of all, as drama.  As a young man his initial reaction to a theatrical performance had made a great impression on him and influenced his point of view from then on.  In his illustrations, Pyle sought to dramatize themes with universal appeal.  The pictures portrayed basic human emotions: the ruthlessness of pirate greed, raw grief in the break-up of Lee's army after Appomattox, smug pride, humble petition.

Pyle's concept of a picture was never trite.  He deliberately looked for new ways to tell a story and involved himself in his subject so thoroughly that his pictures make the reader and eye-witness to a vivid experience.

Having evolved his basic pictorial idea, Pyle developed his compositions; his pictures are fascinating to analyze. No area of a picture is wasted; each makes its contribution, through placement, line, tone or color, to the whole story. Through the details, the viewers eye is purposefully led toward the focal center.

Pyle wrote, as well as illustrated, many books himself.  He did original research on the obscure subject of the buccaneers in the New World.  It is from his famous Book of Pirates that our present-day concept of pirates has come.  School children still read his Men of Iron, The Story of King Arthur and his Knights, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, and many other tales.

As a teacher, Pyle attracted a large number of students, inspiring them as much by his idealism as by the high standards he set for picture making.  Over the years he taught at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, lectured at the Art Students League in New York, and eventually conducted special classes for gifted students at both Wilmington, Delaware and, during the summer at Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania.  He made no charge for his teaching, and, in fact, built a set of studios for the students to work in.  N. C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn, Stanley Arthurs, and Frank Schoonover were among the beneficiaries of this instruction, and passed along to others Pyle's unique approach as they, in turn, became illustrators and teachers.

At the time when it was customary and fashionable to study in Europe, Pyle had a strong conviction that students should seek their training and inspiration in America.  Many of Pyle's greatest pictures came from his intense and loyal interest in Americana. His renditions of the Revolutionary War period and of Civil War subjects have since become standard pictures in our history books, among them Woodrow Wilson's History of the American People, and James Truslow Adams' History of the United States.

After Pyle's death, his students collected many of his original paintings as a nucleus for the present comprehensive collection of his work in the Delaware Art Museum. An excellent biography entitled Howard Pyle, was written by Henry C. Pitz and published in New York by Bramhall House in 1965.

- Walt Reed, Illustration House, New York

Biography from American Illustrators Gallery
Biography photo for Howard Pyle
Howard Pyle has long been considered 'The Father of American Illustration' as much for his prolific and superb work as a writer and illustrator as for his commitment to teaching. In the 1890's, Pyle was well established as an illustrator and turned his mind to teaching others. He founded the first school in the nation for illustration at Drexel Institute (1894-1900) in Philadelphia. In that same year he published ninety-nine illustrations bringing him substantial fees, yet he never accepted money for his teaching.

Many of the greatest illustrators attended his classes at Drexel, and later at the Howard Pyle School of Art in Wilmington (1900-1905, and in the summers alongside the Brandywine River at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Howard Pyle's school in Wilmington made that city the center of illustration in the twilight of the 19th century. Pyle had about two-hundred students during his teaching career of whom more than eighty were well-known and very successful, and two dozen more of whom were very famous and immensely successful.

Many of the students and subsequently, their students became known as 'The Brandywine School'. Some of the best known included Stanley Arthurs, Clifford Ashley, William Aylward, Arthur Becher, Anna Whelan Betts, Ethel Franklin Betts, Harvey Dunn, Anton Otto Fischer, Philip R. Goodwin, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Gayle Hoskins, Oliver Kemp, W.H.D. Koerner, Violet Oakley, Maxfield Parrish, Ernest Peixotto, Frank Schoonover, Jessie Willcox Smith, Henry J. Soulen, Sarah Stilwell Weber, C. Leslie Thrasher, and N.C. Wyeth.

A most extraordinary and little known fact was that Pyle's classes were about fifty percent female students,an unheard of proportion in those days.

Pyle was born into a Quaker family from Delaware and lived his whole life there except for two years at the Art Students League early in his career and a year in Italy, where he died. His family was not unhappy when he expressed an interest in studying art although such a thought was not on any Quaker agendas.

His first art teacher was Van der Weilen, but at the age of twenty-three, he moved to New York to attend the Art Students League. He expected to gain an education as an artist, an easel painter for there was no specific education for illustrators, and his first thoughts was making art, not making a living. Like most of his students, Pyle later went into illustration to earn a living at his craft.

While studying in NYC, he was able to get small commissions illustrating for Century Magazine. Other commissions flowed from his initial projects including some from Collier's Weekly, Everybody's Magazine, Harper's Weekly, Harper's Monthly, Cosmopolitan, The Ladies' Home Journal, McClure's Magazine, Scribner's, Wide Awake, and St. Nicholas magazines. Each commission was more lucrative than the previous one, and each illustration was received enthusiastically by the magazine art editors and their readership. Pyle was in demand from the very beginning.

In 1879, Pyle returned to Delaware and produced a number of books, which he both wrote and illustrated, including Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates, The Story of King Arthur and his Knights, Men of Iron, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, and for other publishers; Riverside Press, The Bibliophile Society, Century, Little Brown and Company, Scribner's, and Houghton Mifflin, Co., the most important publishers in the USA.

Howard Pyle was a master of all forms of media. He excelled in pen and ink, watercolors, oils, pencil, and charcoal, equally well. From his experiences as an art student, he realized that there was no training, which taught a young artist the difference between a cover illustration and an interior one. There was no lesson in the application of masthead lettering to an image for it took a certain design ability, which was more than the training of an easel artist approached, and so on.

He realized that there was a need arising to train illustrators with the advent of better publishing technologies. Most of those elements of illustration training he had learned from experience, by intuition, or by listening carefully to the myriad of magazine art directors whom he attracted to his door.

Additionally, when teaching, he tried to instill certain standards of behavior amongst his students to imbue them with his own precepts. He had the goal to train a generation, which could visually define this nation for itself through illustration. It was all ad hoc, and it worked.

Pyle recommended that his pupils look to their own country and their own lives for inspiration. He asked the students to train themselves hard, both spiritually and artistically, and to experience the environments they wished to replicate, to use authentic props in their paintings to enhance the images they created. Howard Pyle's influence is the most enduring influence on all illustrators, bar none.

His teaching methods were as bold as his paintings. His images of our national story have become commonplace in the nation's history books and in the artistic molding of what it means to be an' American'. It was said that Pyle had the fine faculty of transporting himself into any period of history and with his masterful brush; he turned historic figures into flesh and blood. His familiar works are images of rakish pirates, tough frontiersmen, and noble knights; they populate children's adventure novels, and remain paradigms, prototypes, stereotypes. They will forever remain our visual models. He captivated anyone who read his stories or viewed his images-in short, he was the best illustrator in his day.

Howard Pyle was born in 1853, at the most propitious time for an illustrator of great genius. It was a time comparable to Michelangelo's birth with its respective coincidence of the Renaissance and Medici rule of power. When Pyle was born, the American public was just getting interested in establishing our own cultural icons, and our American civilization had begun to flower. A young Quaker artist understood that the new magazines and progress in printing meant that a need for more images was at hand. Pyle's magical images came from a vibrant mind, which enhanced his notions with authenticity making fairy tales and fictional personages come alive in the reader's mind's eyes.

During his career, Howard Pyle produced illustrations for nearly three-thousand five hundred publications, and about half of those images illustrated books and articles he authored - two hundred magazine articles and nineteen books.

The Delaware Museum of Art was founded to house his art works.

©2004 National Museum of American Illustration

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V
Howard Pyle
Born: Wilmington, Delaware 1853
Died: Florence, Italy 1911

Very important illustrator, muralist, author, teacher

Pyle was educated at Friends' schools. When he indicated skill at drawing, he was for three years the pupil of Van der Weilen in Philadelphia. After an interval of work in his father's leather business, he went to New York City in 1876 to seek a career as an illustrator. After months of discouragement, advice from Abbey, Frost, and F S Church aided him in his first sale, a double-page spread for Harper's Weekly in 1878. When he returned to Wilmington in 1880 he was fully established as an illustrator.

A large and jovial man, he specialized in historical subjects and in pictures for the children's books he wrote. From 1894 to 1900 he taught illustration at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia to such painters as Maxfield Parrish. In 1900 he established his own school in Wilmington, with a limited number of students and no charges. He trained WHD Koerner, Arthurs, and Schoonover. His pupil NC Wyeth taught Peter Hurd who guided John Meigs. His pupil Harvey Dunn taught Von Schmidt who helped Will James and William Moyers. Pyle could be called both America's most important illustrator and most important teacher of illustrators.

Resource: SAMUELS' Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Share an image of the Artist

  Full access to biographies is
  free each Friday

About  Howard Pyle

Born:  1853 - Wilmington, Delaware
Died:   1911 - Florence, Italy
Known for:  illustration, teaching, history and marine genre painting

Essays referring to
Howard Pyle