Pyle Driver

Since we looked at NC Wyeth last week, now is a great time to examine the work of his tutor, Howard Pyle.  Pyle was another artist who made the Golden Age of Illustration what it was.

He’s best known for images of pirates, but I’m far fonder of his fairy tales.

Growing up, I had two of Pyle’s books- Salt and Pepper (1885) and The Wonder Clock (1887).  Both volumes are lavishly illustrated.  And yes, he wrote his own stories.

bearskin clock

Howard Pyle, Bearskin from The Wonder Clock, 1887

How Three Went Out Into the Wide World Clock

Howard Pyle, How Three Went Out Into the Wide World from The Wonder Clock, 1887

How Three Went Out Into the Wide World 1 Clock

Howard Pyle, How Three Went Out Into the Wide World from The Wonder Clock, 1887

The Apple of Contentment Salt

Howard Pyle, The Apple of Contentment from Salt & Pepper, 1885

The stories themselves have a very Grimm-Like quality; they’re speckled with bits of dark humor.  Points between stories are punctuated by one-page poems.  These are often ironic and a little bitter.

I remember being a little troubled by some of the ideas Pyle used in his stories.  One of the characters strikes a deal with the Devil, and another is perpetually haunted by a skin-and-bones ghost called “Trouble”.  All of this is mixed in with a fair number of reincarnated Saints and flying footstools.

Clever Peter and the Two Bottles Salt

Howard Pyle, Clever Peter and the Two Bottles from Salt & Pepper, 1885

Concerning Four Wolves Salt

Howard Pyle, Concerning Four Wolves from Salt & Pepper, 1885

The Two Wishes Salt

Howard Pyle, Two Wishes from Salt & Pepper, 1885

The Skillful Huntsman Salt

Howard Pyle, The Skillful Huntsman from Salt & Pepper, 1885

Kindly note the Devil, above.  You just don’t see these sorts of things in kid’s lit today. 

There’s also a lot of deception.  One bold hero cross-dresses in order to infiltrate a castle and steal from the giant who lives there.

Peterkin and the Little Grey Hare Clock

Howard Pyle, Peterkin and the Little Grey Hare from The Wonder Clock, 1887

Princess Golden Hair and the Great Black Raven Clock

Howard Pyle, Princess Golden Hair and the Great Black Raven from The Wonder Clock, 1887

The Water of Life Clock

Howard Pyle, The Water of Life from The Wonder Clock, 1887

Mother Hildebrandt Clock

Howard Pyle, Mother Hildebrandt from The Wonder Clock, 1887

Venturesome Boldness Salt

Howard Pyle, Venturesome Boldness from Salt & Pepper, 1885

The best thing about these stories is the atmosphere that Pyle created in the late 19th century; each tale feels as if it is set in some vaguely medieval timeless kingdom, where magic runs amok and adventure is just around the corner.

Which Is Best? Clock

Howard Pyle, Which is Best? from The Wonder Clock, 1887

Both The Wonder Clock and Salt and Pepper are available online for free, since most of Pyle’s work is now in the public domain.  That said, I really recommend picking up a hard copy of both.

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