Artists and teachers are by definition "givers." It seems impossible to have any longevity in either vocation without and innate desire in one's personality to give to others, whether that be knowledge, beauty, a shared experience. Creating and making is giving. Giving can be depleting though. One can begin to feel spent and isolated. Which is why I have selected this image of this post.
This weekend I had the opportunity to get away from my usual surroundings and return to one of my husband's and my favorite little corners of the world: Chadds Ford, PA and Wilmington, DE. In a culture of hyper media focused on the exotic: Wilmington...er..ah..Delaware? You may ask. But, I say to you: Yes, Wilmington, Delaware home of Howard Pyle and the Delaware Art Museum. You seem incredulous still? Ah, then let me enlighten you.
Howard Pyle is quite simply the Father of American Illustration. A Wilmington native, he taught art at Drexel University and later established his own school. There he taught some of the most significant artists/illustrators of the 20th century including N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Rosie O'Neill, Violet Oakley, and Jessie Wilcox Smith. He also influenced Norman Rockwell and Andrew Loomis among others. You may think that you are not familiar with any of these artists and their works, but if you have read Treasure Island or seen a Kewpie Doll, you already know N.C. Wyeth (feather of Andrew Wyeth and grandfather of Jamie Wyeth) and Rosie O'Neill. Pyle's Book of Pirates even influenced the costume designers of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. His illustrated Robin Hood and His Merry Men is still in print.
The Brandywine School of Painting really begins with Howard Pyle. But, why this geographic area? My husband (an artist as well) and I have long pondered this. We've concluded that there is something about the landscape and the light. Many of Pyle's students wrote about this. In fact,, N.C. Wyeth in one of his first letters home to his mother remarked that this landscape was "more home to him than home." There is a serenity of the rolling hills of this region, and a quiet symbioses between the architecture and activity of human kind within this landscape. And then there is the light, long raking autumnal golds outlining the gentle landscape forms in deep blue shadows with the most azure blue contrasting the pure white of summer clouds. If you look at the paintings of the Wyeth's, I think you can see this.
After taking in the Howard Pyle collection at the Delaware Art Museum, we moved from the urban to the rural and forward in time and visited the Brandywine River museum and the studio and home of N.C. Wyeth. Landscape and spaces shape a person. In the best circumstance the landscape is a constant source of renewal and inspiration. This is important for artists and teachers. In viewing the Wyeth Retrospective Exhibit is was easy to see that this landscape that was more home than home was certainly that for him and the generations of artists that followed. Maybe that is why we keep going back, to take it all in and come home again.