"I may say to you in confidence," wrote Howard Pyle in 1912, "that even to this very day I still like the pictures you can find in books better than wall pictures." The statement can be understood as Pyle's way of endorsing strong narrative content in a work of art, but it also helps to explain why, in a career spanning thirty-five years, he produced 3,300 published illustrations, half of which appeared in magazine articles and books he had written.
Pyle was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and remained there, with occasional time spent in New York, for the rest of his life. Seven generations of his family had lived in the nearby Brandywine Valley. Most were Quakers, although Pyle was raised as a Swedenborgian. His education more or less kept pace with his drawing skills; he simultaneously read and drew his way through history and literature. His art training ended with a stint in 1869 at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and commercial success followed almost immediately, with illustrations that began to appear everywhere—in Harper's Monthly, Collier's, the Saturday Evening Post, and in books whose subjects ranged from medieval legends and children's tales to life in colonial America.
Teaching preoccupied Pyle from 1894 on; a formidable line of students, including N. C. Wyeth, passed through his classrooms. Like their master, they were keenly aware of the new printing techniques of the era, which helped them bring their work before the public with unprecedented fidelity.
William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, editors, with contributions by Dona Brown, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Judith K. Maxwell, Stephen Nissenbaum, Bruce Robertson, Roger B. Stein, and William H. Truettner Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)