American Illustration

The Delaware Art Museum was founded to preserve the work of Wilmington-based artist Howard Pyle, who gained fame as an author and illustrator of books and magazines at the turn of the 20th century. Pyle filled his riveting pictures of American heroes, intrepid explorers, and medieval adventurers with drama and emotion, inspiring generations of illustrators and movie directors. His iconic pirates serve as the inspiration for pirates in popular culture today. Pyle’s popularity was due to his remarkable gift for seizing and expressing the dramatic gist of a story. An articulate and demanding teacher, he communicated this skill to his many students, teaching them to put themselves “in the picture.” Pyle’s illustrious students include N. C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Jessie Willcox Smith, and other famous illustrators.

Pyle and his students worked when illustration was in high demand. The boom in illustrated publications provided work for a cadre of male and female illustrators well beyond the Pyle circle. Popular magazines like Harper’s Weekly, Collier’s, and the Saturday Evening Post reached hundreds of thousands of readers each month across the United States and beyond. In a letter to his brother, Vincent van Gogh wrote, “Do you know an American magazine Harpers Monthly? There are wonderful sketches in it … which strike me dumb with admiration … by Howard Pyle.” Although they were available far and wide, these books and magazines were aimed at the educated, white middle class in the United States, and the stories and illustrations in them reflect those values.

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Available in Our Store

Pirates, Patriots, and Princesses: The Art of Howard Pyle, selected and edited by Jeff A. Menges

Includes full-color plates of Pyle’s best-known works! 96 pp., $17.95

Illustrating Her World: Ellen B. Pyle by Katharine E. Smith and Joyce K. Schiller

This catalog provides an overview of Ellen Pyle’s art. 42 pp., $22.95

The Mermaid Journal

Record all of your secrets and stories in this beautiful journal featuring one of Howard Pyle’s most beloved works. Lined pages. 6” x 8 1/4", $20.00