Howard Pyle - A story Artist
Stories from Twilight Land - Introduction

    The earth and the air and the sky were all still, just as it is at twilight, and I heard them laughing and talking in the tap-room of the Inn of the Sign of Mother Goose -- the linking of glasses, and the rattling and clatter of knives and forks and plates and dishes. That is where I wished to go. So in I went. Mother Goose herself opened the door, and there I was.

    The room was full of twilight; but there they sat, every one of them. I did not count them, but there were ever so many: Aladdin, and Ali Baba, and Fortunatis, and Jack-the-Giant-Killer, and Doctor Faustus, and Bidpai, and Cinderella, and Patient Grizzle, and the Soldier who cheated the Devil, and St. George, and Hans in Luck, who traded and traded his lump of gold until he had only an empty churn to show for it; and there was Sinbad the Sailor, and the Tailor who killed seven flies at a blow, and the Fisherman who fished up the Genie, and the Lad who fiddled for the Jew in the Bramble Bush, and the Blacksmith who made death sit in his appletree, and Boots, who always marries the princess, whether he wants to or not -- a rag-tag lot as ever you saw in your life, gathered from every place, and brought together in Twilight Land.

    Each one of them was telling a story . . . .

Twilight Land is a collection of stories written and illustrated by Howard Pyle. (1853 -1911) They were first published serial fashion in Harper’s Young People and then gathered together and published in book form by Harper and Brothers in 1894. They are dedicated to his daughter Phoebe, who was then eight years old.

Howard Pyle is most noted for his illustration. Considered by many to be the Father of American Illustration, his career began in 1876 with an illustration in Scribner’s and continued till 1911. During that time, he did illustration and covers for magazines such as Harper’s Young People, Harper’s Weekly and Monthly, Ladies Home Journal, McClure’s (where he was briefly full time art editor in 1906), St. Nicholas and Collier’s Weekly.

Pyle founded a art school in Wilmington, Delaware in 1894, and started such well known artists and illustrators on their careers as N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Maxfield Parrish, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Charlotte Harding (Brown) and Edward A. Wilson, among many others. In the summers between 1898 and 1903, the school moved to a mill nearby at Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania on the Brandywine River. These artists became known as the Brandywine School. Of his 110 students, significantly, 40 were women, in a time when few women were becoming professional artists. Howard Pyle contributed towards both making this "practical art" into a commercial occupation, but laid the groundwork for American artists' works to be accepted as "fine art" as well. David Michealis' biography of N. C. Wyeth is a good source on Howard Pyle and his school. Wondrous Strange : The Wyeth Tradition (1998) by Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, James Wyeth and the Delaware Art Museum both introduces these four artists and presents examples of their "wondrous strange" art.

    "Live in your picture --become one with it -- feel its mood and action
    in every part of you!"

As a teacher, "the practice and experience gained in drawing and painting from the model and still life, the exercises in inventing character faces and recording emotions on them, the outdoor sketching, the lectures on historical backgrounds and costumes, the lessons in proportion and perspective were all intended to provide skills and material for the imagination. Knowledge was important but it was to be commanded by the pictorial imagination.

It was this dual emphasis on deep and wide knowledge, experienced knowledge, ignited by the imagination that was the core of Pyle’s message. It meant immersion in one’s subject, feeling its mood in one’s very bones, acting out its drama and molding it to touch the imagination of others."(Pitz, Howard Pyle, p.158)

His teaching seems to have applied equally to his story telling. Already balding in his thirties, his students recalled a strong rich voice and animated facial expressions. " … he dove into his powerful imagination, and described to us what he saw in its depths. . . a wonderful word picture grew before us. He had gone so much deeper than we could, yet had such a sure grip on reality, and added mystery and beauty and feeling we hadn’t dreamed." wrote one of his students. (Pitz, p.160)

A master of black and white engraved illustration, he was one of the first illustrators to make the transition to the Four Color printing method -- early experiments included the disappointing Lady of Shallot (1882), and illustrations for Harpers Monthly for "The Pilgrimage of Truth" (1900) and "North Folk Legends of the Sea" (1902) which included The Mermaid.

He also wrote and illustrated books - most notable for his The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (1883); and his storybooks like Pepper and Salt (1886) and The Wonder Clock(1888) which he did for children – he also did medieval adventure stories like Otto of the Silver Hand (1888) and Men of Iron(1892); pirate stories such as The Rose of Paradise (1888), The Story of Jack Ballister’s Fortunes (1895) some of which are found in The Book of Piratesand illustrations for Buccaneers and Marooners of America (1890) - and his four volume King Arthur saga: King Arthur and His Knights, Champions of the Round Table, The Story of Lancelot, and The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur between 1903 and 1910.

Howard Pyle grew up in a Quaker home near Wilmington, Delaware, a setting rich in Revolutionary War history, in a house full of books where his mother often read to him, and there were fields and woods to roam. A change in the family fortunes caused a relocation to the city, and a home near the river docks with their ships. His childhood was during the American Civil War, a time in which the publishing world thrived with engraved illustrations from the battlefields.

Howard Pyle was married in 1881 to Anne Poole, and the father of seven children. His children included Sellers (1882), Phoebe (1886), Theodore (1889), Howard (1891), Eleanor (1894), Godfrey (1895) and Wilfred (1897). His studio was in his home and he usually had his family close by as he worked. Family summers at Rehoboth Beach were often the settings for his pirate pictures.

Sadly in 1889, while he and his pregnant wife were on a trip to Jamaica, having left their children to stay with grandparents, his oldest son, Sellers died at the age of seven. The funeral took place long before the Pyles were able to obtain a steamship transportation. He dealt with his grief in his book The Garden behind The Moon (1895), an allegory of the place of children in the afterlife.

[Picture: Sir Tristram Leaps into the Sea - Pyle] Howard Pyle's abililties as a researcher are evident in both his illustration and writing. Apart from his art education and early work in New York, he seldom traveled far from the Wilmington Delaware region, yet his illustrations of medieval times, etc. are carefully detailed. His storytelling was obviously nurtured by a vast acquaintance with folklore and tale, as the introduction to Twilight Land shows. As you browse the stories, you will see how he drew from that lore, yet told his own unique stories. His Robin Hood and Arthur stories were just as enthusiastically accepted in England, a tribute to his work since he had never been there.

Pyle's Sir Gawain, 1903 While Robin Hood and King Arthur and his better known books drew much from the Medieval and European story traditions - the tales in Twilight Land are from the Middle and Far East. While the illustration of the former books falls more in the decorative style of Albrecht Durer’s woodcuts, though with Art Nouveau touches; the illustrations of Twilight land are influenced more by the borderless impressionistic styles of Daniel Vierge, a well know Parisian illustrator in his day. Pyle's illustrations add much to his stories, giving the reader insight into the characters and settings as he saw them in his mind.

His pictures were themselves stories - he captured action, emotion and drama in the faces and unusual poses of his figures, and their realistic detailed settings. He was also a master painter - much of his work can be seen at the
Delaware Art Museum
and the
Brandywine River Museum.
He is well known for his paintings illustrating the life of Washington and the American Revolutionary War. In his last years, he did a number of large murals for public buildings.

In 1910, Howard Pyle relocated his family to Florence, Italy where he hoped to study and pursue the painting of murals - drawing on the expertise of the Old World. It was his second trip abroad. In November of 1911, he suddenly became ill and died of a kidney infection at the age of 58. His ashes were interred there.

Much of the information on this page is from Howard Pyle: Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine School by Henry C. Pitz.

For more on Howard Pyle, visit the following links


His Writings:

His Artwork:

My thanks to Batsy Bybell for her part in this - our joint project - putting these stories of Howard Pyle's Twilight Land online.

Eldrbarry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Batsy

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