I drove over to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, recently to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum
and see their new summer show, “Howard Pyle: American Master
Rediscovered”. This exhibit was organized by the Delaware Art Museum and
explores the work of the artist who is referred to as the “grandfather
of American illustration”. Pyle was a famous illustrator and artist in
the late 1800’s, whose students included artists like N.C.Wyeth (father of Andrew Wyeth) and
Maxfield Parrish. The exhibit includes rarely seen paintings, drawings,
prints, and books which he illustrated.
painting above is The Buccaneer of the Caribbean, from Howard Pyle’s
Book of Pirates. Pyle wrote about pirates as well. From that book:
“The buccaneer was a picturesque fellow when you regard him from this
long distance away. He belonged to no country and recognized no kith or
kin of human nationality. He spent his money like a prince, and was
very well satisfied to live rapidly, even if in so doing his death
should come upon him with equal celerity. He clothed himself in a
picturesque medley of rags, tatters, and finery. He loved gold and
silver ornaments—ear-rings, finger-rings, bracelets, chains,—and he
ornamented himself profusely with such gewgaws. He affected a great deal
of finery of a sort—a tattered shirt or even a bare skin mattered not
very much to him provided he was able to hide his semi-nakedness beneath
some such finery as a velvet cloak or a sash of scarlet silk; patched
breeches were not regarded when he had a fine leather belt with a silver
buckle and a good sword hanging to it. And always there were a
long-barrelled pistol or two and a good handy knife stuck in a
waist-belt with which to command respect.
“Such was the buccaneer of the seventeenth century.”
Norman Rockwell was one of many artists of his generation influenced by Pyle. In his painting, A Family Tree, which appeared as the cover of an October 1959 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell wrote that he painted the initials H.P. on the treasure chest in the painting as an homage to Pyle.
And why did I mention Johnny Depp? Turns out the inspiration for
the look of his Captain Jack Sparrow character in the Pirates of the
Caribbean movies was the art of Howard Pyle, who created many
illustrations and paintings of pirates.
is explained in this short YouTube video, produced by University of
Delaware interns, with interviews of several art historians:
This is a fun show…don’t miss it when you visit the Berkshires this summer!
PS. I found a great blog post about Pyle which you might also enjoy. It includes a reference to a 1994 article in the July 1994 issue of Smithsonian Magazine by Verlyn Klinkenborg, who writes for The New York Times editorial page, is a fellow resident of Columbia County, and has even attended a tea at the Inn at Green River!