Howard Pyle and the Brandywine School

Howard Pyle (1854-1911), known as ‘The Father of American Illustration,’ was a prolific illustrator, as well as a major author of books and periodicals in the late 19th century. In the 1890s, Pyle was well established as an illustrator and turned his mind to teaching others.

There was a great need arising to train illustrators with the advent of better publishing technologies. Pyle founded the first school for illustration art in 1894 at what is now Philadelphia’s Drexel University, and later founded the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art in the Brandywine River area at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The students attending his school became known as the ‘Brandywine School of Illustrators.’

Pyle had approximately two hundred students during his teaching career of whom many became famous. Some of the best known include, Clifford Ashley, Ethel Franklin Betts, Anton Otto Fischer, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Frank Schoonover, Jessie Willcox Smith, and N.C. Wyeth. As the first significant wave of commercial illustrators in America, the Brandywine School artist-illustrators wielded a strong influence on others such as Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell.

Pyle recommended that his pupils look to their own country and their own lives for inspiration. He asked the students to train themselves hard, spiritually and artistically, to experience the environments they wished to replicate and to use authentic props in their paintings to enhance images.

While Pyle’s most familiar works remain the images of rakish pirates, tough cowboys and noble knights populating children’s adventure novels, they are the paradigms, prototypes, and stereotypes that will forever remain our models. Howard Pyle and the Brandywine School is a comprehensive collection of original works of Pyle and his noted students, with a particular emphasis on the works of his most well known student, N.C. Wyeth.