Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard PyleMerry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Howard Pyle

The cultural influence of American author and illustrator Howard Pyle should not be underestimated. He transformed Robin Hood from a bandit to a heroic defender of the weak. He changed pirates from seafaring hoodlums to iconic historical figures.

Pyle was also one of the great American illustrators. You probably own a book that has been influenced by him in some way and remember his name when you watch any Treasure Island or Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Born a Quaker in Wilmington, Delaware, young Pyle was more interested in doodling than traditional schoolwork.  His parents astutely abandoned the idea of sending their son to college and arranged for him to study art from the age of 16 to 19.  These formative years would be Pyle’s only formal artistic training, and it was from these beginnings that Pyle grew to become the man who rebranded history and taught a generation of American artists.

Illustrated Legends of King Arthur by Howard Pyle (Easton Press)
Illustrated Legends of King Arthur
by Howard Pyle (Easton Press)

Pyle’s earliest published work came in the form of illustrations, short stories and poems in periodicals like Scribner’s Monthly and Harpers Weekly.  Pyle’s first full length work was a highly successful interpretation the Robin Hood stories which he called The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.  It was the first time the ballads of Robin Hood had been collected and woven into a single narrative, but Pyle was happy to alter the original stories.  While he did preserve some of the original content, he essentially re-wrote the entire set of stories in order to form a cohesive narrative and make them ideal reading for children with hero figures, true villains and righteous causes.

The most notable of his changes was to Robin himself, altering the protagonist from a selfish, murdering crook into a philanthropist who robs the rich and gives to the poor. He would only kill if someone attacked him first.

Pyle used pirates in many adventure stories.  Few authentic illustrations of pirate clothing were available so he invented the flamboyant romantic garb that has become standard issue for any tale about piracy these days - Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow character is 100% Pyle.

By 1900 Howard Pyle had achieved such fame that he founded his own art school - the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art.  He instructed the likes of Jessie Willcox Smith, Harvey Dunn, Philip R. Goodwin and the great N.C. Wyeth, and it became known as the Brandywine School style of illustration.  Today you can see much of Pyle’s work at the Delaware Art Museum where much of his work, as well that of his students, is collected.

 

Related Video

The Art & Illustrations of Howard Pyle Play Video



Books Written by Howard Pyle

Books Illustrated by Howard Pyle

Old Chester Tales by Margaret Deland
Old Chester Tales
by Margaret Deland
The Parasite by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Parasite
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Saint Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
Saint Joan of Arc
by Mark Twain
Gallantry by James Branch Cabell
Gallantry
by James Branch Cabell
Stops of Various Quills by W.D. Howells
Stops of Various Quills
by W.D. Howells
The Line of Love by James Branch Cabell
The Line of Love
by James Branch Cabell
City Ballads by Will Carleton
City Ballads
by Will Carleton

Biographies About Howard Pyle

The Art & Illustrations of Howard Pyle:





 

Which Howard Pyle books did you read as a child? - leave a comment:

More to Explore:



All The Colors of Penguin’s Rainbow Shelf Help: The Best Guides to Book Collecting The Magical Illustration of Arthur Rackham