Monday, January 07, 2013


Milton Glaser

Last year, the Delaware Art Museum put together a major centennial exhibition commemorating the life and work of Howard Pyle, the highly influential father of American Illustration.   Pyle lived in Delaware and following his death in 1911, a group of Pyle students and friends combined with prominent citizens to form the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts.  Their collection of 100 works by Pyle served as the starting point for the Delaware Art Museum. 

To close out its centennial year, the Museum bravely invited me to serve as guest curator for an exhibition on The State of Illustration 100 years after Pyle. That exhibition will run from February 8 through June 1, 2013.

It would be impossible for any single exhibition to capture the whole noisy riot of styles, techniques and trends that has made up illustration over the past century.    My approach was to showcase the work of what I believe to be eight of the best, most important illustrators representing a cross section of today's illustration.

I have argued on this blog that a large percentage of popular illustration today is directed at information-saturated audiences with diminishing attention spans and little taste.  Much of the technical skill that previous generations of illustrators earned at a terrible price is now available to any high school student for the price of Photoshop.  Many of the periodicals that once made illustration a lucrative profession died long ago.  Yet, as the Delaware exhibition demonstrates, there remains a bold, creative core to illustration that is, for me, superior to much of what is taking place in contemporary "fine" art.

For this exhibition I tried to avoid popular illustrators who have prospered today by catering to the lowest common denominator.  I was looking instead for the true heirs to the tradition of Howard Pyle, excellent artists who create work of enduring value. 

Phil Hale

I hope you have a chance to make it to the Delaware show. I guarantee you some good art.  Between now and February 8, I am going to use this blog to highlight some of the pictures in the show and discuss the artists I chose.


Anonymous MORAN said...

Can't wait to see it.

1/08/2013 12:57 AM  
Blogger PMcC said...

I will look forward to seeing that exhibit. I also enjoyed their smaller exhibit on Katharine Pyle, Howard's younger sister, and the oft overlooked student who was and is usually overshadowed by the likes of N.C. Wyeth and Jessie Willcox Smith. It will be interesting to compare the turn of the 20th century illustrators with the turn of the 21st century illusttrators.

1/08/2013 1:40 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Looking forward to it.

1/09/2013 12:09 AM  
Blogger J.E. Cole said...

Be prepared to catch some hell, David.

Good luck. Looking forward to it.

1/10/2013 10:48 AM  
Blogger Untitled said...

Great. Wish I could catch it. I look forward to your posts about this exhibition.

1/11/2013 3:26 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Moran, PMcC and Tom-- great, I hope you can make it.

J.E. Cole-- I'm ready.

Untitled-- For those who can't make it, I think the catalog will be very informative.

1/12/2013 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Luca Carey said...

Photoshop is worthless without a good foundation (one need only go to deviant art to see that). Though I understand the lamenting over the loss of traditional craft, it must be said that the advent of digital technology has fixed a lot of problems that we used to see all the time in illustration. Specifically in book covers, old versions would frequently feature protagonists with impossibly placed joints and unintentionally alien spines. Fixing those problems now is as easy as dragging parts of the image around. Bad for pride and self-discipline, but good for art I say.

1/24/2013 7:46 PM  
Anonymous rick price said...

I'm surprised Gregory Manchess has not been considered for this list. If anyone has carried on the tradition from Pyle, Greg certainly is the one. As godlike as I believe Phil Hale is, I do not think he does much illustration these days, or has in many years.

1/25/2013 8:26 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rick, I'm a big fan of Greg's work. I did consider him and Jim Gurney and many other talented artists who "carried on the tradition of Howard Pyle," but I was really looking for examples of artists to represent how the enveelope has been stretched since Pyle's day-- graphic novels, character design, computer animation, etc. You are right, Phil Hale doesn't do much illustration anymore. He discusses that fact in the Museum catalog. But I wanted someeone to represent how the boundary between illustration and "fine" art or gallery painting has become more porous, and Phil is certainly a good example of that.

1/25/2013 10:17 PM  
Blogger John Bit said...

Love them all. I really love arts.

2/06/2013 9:18 PM  
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2/26/2013 6:37 AM  

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