Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Pyle of Van Gogh? (Pun Intended)

Vincent Van Gogh and Howard Pyle were born in the same year. They were both artists but lived on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean and never met. However, Vincent did get a chance to see some of Pyle's illustrations in a magazine and wrote in one of his letters to his brother:

"Do you know the American magazine "Harpers Monthly"? There are wonderful sketches in it, which strike me dumb with admiration, among others . . . sketches from a Quaker town in the olden days by Howard Pyle. I am full of new pleasure, because I have new hope of making things myself that have soul in them."

When I read this, I wondered in amazement at the irony of life. Howard Pyle was world famous as an artist and illustrator during his life time - his paintings commanded the highest prices and he was wined and dined by the rich and famous. Vincent Van Gogh labored in obscurity during his lifetime, never selling even one painting. Yet with the passage of time all these years later, which artist is known by everyone (even those not in the art world) and whose paintings sell for millions of dollars? Strange isn't it?

My question for you, dear reader - Can you explain this seeming change? Their art has not changed, it remains just as it did when they put the last brushstroke on the canvas. Why this seeming fickle hand of fate that deals fame and fortune to one and then takes it away only to be given to another?


  1. LOL!! Exactly my point, Susan. Very few people living today have heard of him - only artists working in the illustration field might have heard of him. But he was a famous artist and illustrator back in the late 1890s throught 1911. He taught at his own art school and his students went on to be famous artists and illustrators. He taught N.C. Wyeth, the father of Andrew Wyeth and grandfather of Jamie Wyeth. He taught Maxfield Parrish and tons more that I could name if I could think of them right now. I love his work but it would not even bring a fraction of what a Van Gogh would if it were up for auction. Life is funny, isn't it?!