Friday, November 11, 2011

A Fresh Look at Howard Pyle at DAM

The Buccaneer Was a
Picturesque Fellow, 1905
Though it may be hard to believe for those of us who've grown up visiting the Delaware Art Museum, Howard Pyle isn't a Rembrandt-level superstar outside of the Delaware Valley. Pyle may no longer be a household name to the rest of the world, but his impact on modern culture extends far beyond the walls of 2301 Kentmere Parkway.

Take pirates, for example -- few images are as iconic in this century as the Pirates of the Carribean-style swashbucklers. The image we have of the pirates of legend doesn't come from actual-time paintings or photographs; real pirates simply weren't captured that way. It was Pyle who created the image (which directly influenced the style of Disney's Captain Jack Sparrow), using research from old books mixed with his own vision based on the text he was illustrating.

This method of taking existing material and turning it into something decidedly his own is at the heart of Howard Pyle: American Masters Rediscovered, the new special exhibition celebrating both the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the Delaware Art Museum and the centenary of Pyle's death.

Away they rode with clashing hoofs
and ringing armor, 1888
If you've spent a lot of time at the Art Museum, you're probably intimately familiar with the paintings in the Pyle collection (I have a "Flying Dutchman" magnet on my refrigerator -- doesn't everyone?). If you think you've seen it all, you may be right -- but you haven't seen it like this. Rediscovered shows Pyle's work in a new way, interspersed with pieces by his contemporaries such as Thomas Eakins, Jean-Leon Gérôme and Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, from whom he took inspiration to create his varying illustrative styles that captured the Middle Ages, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, and historical America. The guest pieces are displayed on gold panels to to set them apart from Pyle's work. Don't skip the descriptions next each painting, especially if you think you know everything about the work -- you don't.

 Howard Pyle: American Masters Rediscovered runs from November 12 to March 4, 2012. Also be sure to tour the newly-redesigned illustration galleries -- with much of the Pyle collection relocated for the retrospective, rarely-seen pieces from the museum's collection are on display.

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