Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Howard Pyle in Indiana

On the evening of December 4, 1903, Howard Pyle spoke in front of the Irvington Athenæum, a literary and cultural club formed a few years earlier by members of the faculty at Butler University. It was Pyle's first visit to Indiana, but he would not have come as an unknown to a state then renowned for its native and resident artists, including William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), T.C. Steele (1847-1926), William Forsyth (1854-1935), Richard Buckner Gruelle (1851-1914), Otto Stark (1859-1926), and J. Ottis Adams (1851-1927). Some of these men may even have been in the audience on that December evening of long ago. What they heard may have sounded something like a manifesto, a call to the American artist to draw and paint pictures of his or her own time and place, to distinguish himself by placing his art first before the editor of the popular magazine, then before the vast reading public. This would be an art for the common man, made possible by rapid and radical advances in technology, also by a democratic way of life in which art would be available to all and would reflect the experiences of all. It's no coincidence that Pyle would use in his talk a comparison to the development of the steam engine, for with the invention of the steam engine and the popular, pictorial magazine--and by extension all of the other institutions and innovations of liberal democracy--a new age was upon the earth. (1) And by the turn of the nineteenth century, the United States was the leading nation of that new age. Here, then, is the text of an article telling about Howard Pyle's visit in Indiana, from the Indianapolis News, December 5, 1903, page 7:


  Howard Pyle, the noted author, artist and illustrator, lectured last night before the Athenæum Club, of Irvington, on "The Art of the Age." He was accompanied by his wife, and an informal reception followed the lecture. He was introduced to the audience by H.U. Brown, (2) who referred to his as coming from the State of Delaware, and said that this was Mr. Pyle’s first visit to Indiana.
  Mr. Pyle said: "I must confess that I do come from the effete East, but I hope you will not hold that against me. Many of you here have come from the East, and you may remember that there are glass houses in the West as well as in the East."
  He defined art as representing in imagery and picture that for which the age stands in which that art is created. The pictures of the past that have lived have been those that truly represented the age in which they were produced. They might be faulty in drawing or in color, but they were necessarily true in technique. Botticelli’s pictures, he said, represent the childlike enthusiasm of the people of his day as in a later day the creations Michaelangelo [sic] and those of the great Flemish and Spanish painters represent the enormous robustness of an age that was nearing completion.
"So we," he argued, "should hand down to those who follow us the living imagery of what this age stands for. A work of art is a mental image made possible by means of certain technical methods. Everything created by the hand of man must first exist in his mind.
Must Live in Our Own Age
"We can not live to-day in the nineteenth, the eighteenth or the seventeenth century, nor in any century but our own. That which possesses life and power must arise from a living vital mind; otherwise it can not have life. This age is separated from those that are gone by something radical and vital. In the past men lived in a world of effect. To-day we live in a world of causes. The difference between these is the difference between something and nothing. Let us take the creation of the steam engine, the first conception of a young lad observing the kettle boiling over the fire. He sees the steam raise the lid. How was James Watt different from those who had gone before? Millions had seen that same phenomena [sic] of the kettle. In that one moment of observation Watt had stepped from one age into another. At that moment of observation we passed into a new age, the teeming energy of today. * * *
"Do we keep pace in other forms of art with this marvelous phenomenon brought about by the discovery of the power of steam? Do we paint the living things we see to-day about us? Do we paint the pictures that unite man to man, or do we imitate the painters who have gone, who belong to an age that is past? Have we as Americans fulfilled the possibilities of our art?
"We are the possessors of the greatest glories any nation in the world can call its own. We are the inheritors of all the ages. Does our art represent the age in which we live? I think not. We have the greatest sculptors of the world today. Possibly the greatest portrait painters are Americans. It is likely the landscape artists of this country are the peers of those of any other country, but have we created an art that stands for the age? Have our artists in their studios poured forth upon their canvases the life that belongs to this age? I think not.
Wonderful Possibilities
"I think, instead, there is a vast pottering after effects—an effort to produce effects in reds and greens and blues. Look at the wonderful possibilities that lie within our country to create the greatest pictures that could exist in the world. Is there nothing in all our redundant [sic] life that a man must seek the galleries of Europe and learn his mechanism in the schools of Paris?
"The one American art that exists to-day is the art of the illustrator. The illustrator creates that which is American. He is compelled to do so. He has the severest critic in the world—the editor of the magazine, who must consider that which the million people desire to have pictured for them. If there is a failure to do this the magazine will prove a failure. The magazine artist must represent that which is about him.
"So, in the magazine are to be seen all the phases of American life as they stand nowhere else. And from this is to arise the art that is to be handed down to the future. When we begin to paint pictures that are representatIve of American life, all we ask is your support and encouragement. Then other rewards will come fast enough."

* * *

Now known as the father of illustration in America, Howard Pyle (1853-1911) started his own school of illustration in his native city of Wilmington, Delaware, in 1900. His most famous student was undoubtedly N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), but others at his Brandywine School included Hoosier illustrators Gayle Porter Hoskins (1887-1962) of Brazil, Herbert Moore (1881-1943) of Indianapolis, and Olive Rush (1866-1973) of Fairmount. Another student, Frank Schoonover (1877-1972), taught at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

* * *

It is ironic in view of Howard Pyle's words before the Irvington Athenæum that he died and was interred not in the New World but in the Old. He went to Italy in June 1910 for his health and to study the murals in that country. He fell ill and contemplated a return stateside. Instead, Pyle died in Florence on November 9, 1911. A Quaker, he was interred at the Cimitero degli Inglesi, or English Cemetery, a burial ground for Protestants and other non-Roman Catholics. I have been to his grave. It is a simple niche in a columbarium or mausoleum, located towards the rear of the cemetery. The face of the niche, perhaps about the same dimensions as an old-fashioned magazine cover turned sideways, possibly a little larger, is marked only with his name. (I don't think even his dates are on the marker, but I can't be sure. This was several years ago, and we were there at closing hours in late fall, too dark for picture-taking.) If nothing else, the marker on his grave should read: "Father of Illustration in America."

(1) By Howard Pyle's reference to the invention of the steam engine, I am reminded of Henry Adams' dynamo as a symbol of a changing age, from The Education of Henry Adams (1918).
(2) H.U. Brown was Hilton U. Brown (1859-1958), a graduate of Butler College (later Butler University); reporter, editor, general manager, and vice-president for and of the Indianapolis News; and president of the board of directors of Butler University. When we were kids, our local branch of the Indianapolis Public Library was named for him. I remember seeing his daughter, the author Jean Brown Wagoner (1896-1996), at the Brown Branch, at our school, or maybe somewhere else. My classmate Mary Wagoner is her granddaughter. If I have my geography right, Hilton U. Brown lived across Emerson Avenue from the artist and teacher William Forsyth. I believe his property in Irvington, on the east side of Indianapolis, became part of the grounds of Thomas Carr Howe High School. Now, in our very democratic age, the former site of his grand home is occupied by a gas station.

Images from Howard Pyle and His Hoosier Students

The Mermaid, by Howard Pyle, 1910.

A work by Gayle Porter Hoskins, date unknown.

An illustration by Herbert Moore from The Men Who Founded America (1909).

Finally, two covers for Woman's Home Companion by Olive Rush, the December issues of two successive years, 1908 and 1909.

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The International Day of the Cartoonist 2018

On December 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. There is talk of discrimination, public accommodations, and so on in the case. Make no mistake, though. What is at stake here is whether the State can require an artist to create something he wishes not to create. Larger still are the questions of whether the individual serves himself or the State, whether he can be made to perform labor against his will by the State, and whether there are such things as private enterprise and private property, or whether those things are merely extensions of the State and exist to serve the purposes of the State. I'll have more to say on these questions below.

Masterpiece Cakeshop of Lakewood, Colorado, is owned and run by Jack Phillips. Mr. Phillips may or may not be a cartoonist, but he is an artist. Anyone who doubts that should see his work and the way in which he creates it. Although he may not be a cartoonist, I write about Jack Phillips today, the International Day of the Cartoonist, because of the issues involved in the case against him and in his case against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I started observing this day in 2015 when five cartoonists were murdered in Paris in the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. They were murdered because they dared to draw what they pleased. I have since written about cartoonists who have been oppressed, threatened, harassed, tortured, imprisoned, or killed, again, for their art. Usually, when artists are treated this way, it is at the hands of the State, or, in the case of radical Islam, a political mass movement with aspirations towards control of the State. Jack Phillips won't be tortured or killed for his art, but he has already been harassed and may face other punishments for choosing not to create something he wishes not to create. My question is this: If he and artists like him do not comply with the requirements of the State, what shall be done with them? Shall they be fined, even to the point of bankruptcy or impoverishment? Shall they be endlessly harassed? Driven out of business? Imprisoned? Shall they have their substance eaten out? Or should we simply allow them their freedom?

* * *

In thinking about cartoonists and the Masterpiece Cakeshop case last month, I developed a hypothesis. My hypothesis is this: that the nation's political cartoonists, specifically those who lean to the left, will perceive the implications of this case for the artist, namely, that if one artist can be made by the State to create something against his will, then no artist is safe from official coercion; and, if those political cartoonists understand the implications, they are likely to remain silent on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. My hypothesis does not include conservative political cartoonists, as artists of that political or philosophical persuasion are almost certain to support the rights of the individual over the power and authority of the State.

So how do you test a hypothesis like this one? Well, I did what everyone does these days: I searched the Internet. Before doing that, though, I drew up a short list of political or editorial cartoonists who I believe lean to the left. In alphabetical order, they are:
  • David Horsey (b. 1951) of the Los Angeles Times, formerly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  • Mike Luckovich (b. 1960) of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Joel Pett (b. 1953) of the Lexington Herald-Leader 
  • Ted Rall (b. 1963), a syndicated cartoonist
  • Tom Toles (b. 1951) of the Washington Post
David Horsey and Joel Pett, by the way, were born in Indiana. Whether they like it or not, I'll call them Hoosiers.

As it turns out, I found very few drawings from political cartoonists on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. The cartoons I did find are pretty mild, I think, and don't address what I believe to be the real heart of the case, nor do they come out with any strong support for the two men who made the original complaint against Masterpiece Cakeshop or for the general idea behind their complaint. None was drawn by the cartoonists on my list.

Mike Keefe (b. 1946), a 
syndicated cartoonist with the Colorado Independent, formerly of the Denver Postdrew a cartoon dated December 7, 2017, showing Moses holding the Ten Commandments and stating: "And if you violate any one of these, no wedding cake for you!" (You can see the cartoon at the website of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists [AAEC], here.) That apparent allusion to Seinfeld may be a deflection from the far more serious topic at hand, in other words a way of noticing the topic without saying anything serious about it.

Chip Bok (b. 1952) of the Akron Beacon Journal, another cartoonist who was not on my list, also drew a cartoon commenting on the controversy. It shows a black man sitting at a lunch counter in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 and saying to the waitress: "Now that I'm sitting at your lunch counter, I'll have a slice of gay wedding cake." (The cartoon is dated December 9, 2017. You can see it on Mr. Bok's website by clicking here.) I don't think 
Mr. Bok's cartoon is especially well thought out. In fact, it seems to me practically a non-sequitur. But if Chip Bok's purpose is to equate homosexuality with being black in America, he ought to have studied our country's 400-year history of enslavement, rape, murder, torture, lynching, oppression, segregation, discrimination, and other offenses against African-Americans before making such a foolish calculation.

The most pointed cartoon that I found on the topic is actually from 2015 and was drawn by David Horsey. In it, an angry cake baker is handing out slices of wedding cake to a crowd of well-dressed people. The triple-tier cake (a devil's food cake, I'm sure) is decorated with the words: "Have a Happy Abomination." The cake topper is two little devils holding hands. The cake baker is saying in anger: "Which one of you sodomites wants the first piece?!" On the left is a caption that reads, "Caveat: You may not want a wedding cake made by someone who thinks that your marriage is evil . . ." Mr. Horsey's cartoon (to be found on the website of the Los Angeles Times, here) accompanies his own opinion piece on the religious liberty law advanced in Indiana in 2015. Mr. Horsey's piece may be slightly snooty, but he closes it with this reasonable consideration:

Gay activists are winning battle after battle, and may want to show some magnanimity in victory. If, in the end, it really comes down to a matter of a few wedding photographers, florists and bakers who disapprove of same-sex marriage, what is gained by forcing them to provide their services? If somebody doesn’t want to share the joyful occasion, does anyone really want to have them around? No wedding needs to be spoiled by a party pooper who thinks committed, lifelong love is a sin. 
I would like to think that David Horsey's opinion has not changed in the last two years. On the other hand, he might very well be flayed by the leftist media for writing something like that today. We should be clear, here, that Jack Phillips is almost certainly not like Mr. Horsey's cartoon caricature, nor is any true Christian likely to be. But then men of David Horsey's political stripe are permitted to trade in broad and inaccurate stereotypes where others are not.

In any case, you can't prove a negative. The fact that I found only two cartoons on the topic of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and none drawn by the five cartoonists on my list does not really confirm my hypothesis. (Maybe I should have designed my experiment better.) In other words, an absence of evidence doesn't make a firm foundation for a case. But if left-leaning political cartoonists remained silent on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, might that indicate something about where they stand? Maybe. Maybe not. There has certainly been enough else to keep them busy for these many months. Maybe I can test my hypothesis again when the Supreme Court announces its decision later this year.

* * *

A year ago today, I wrote about the cartoonist Joe Szabo, who was born and educated in Communist-controlled Hungary before fleeing to the United States. (Click here to read that entry.) Here he is discussing journalism in his native country with his friend Len Lear:
Journalists in a Communist country are considered a part of the political apparatus. You're not a watchdog, just the opposite. You are a lapdog. You are not there to print the news or to be objective. You are there to make the authorities in government look good and not to deviate from the party line. You are basically a public relations person for the rulers and oppressors.
Substitute the word artists for journalists, and you begin to close in on the questions central to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, namely: Is an artist his own person, an individual free to express himself or not as he chooses, or is he simply a part of the apparatus of the State, merely one of a collective compelled to serve its purposes? Is an artist a free and autonomous person or, in Joe Szabo's words, is he "basically a public relations person for . . . rulers and oppressors"? Does an artist own his own property? Does an artist have any right or claim to his own time, labor, energy, and creativity? Or do all of these things simply exist within the domain of the State, to be held, distributed, and controlled by the State as it sees fit? Is the artist his or her own master, or are artists simply servants of political power? And if an artist is such a servant, then what about everyone else? Are we not servants also?

I'll close with two quotes on totalitarianism. One is from an artist, T.H. White in his novel The Once and Future King (1958):

"Everything which is not forbidden is compulsory."

The other is from one of the architects of totalitarianism, Benito Mussolini:

"Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."

Shall it be forbidden the artist to create or not to create as he or she pleases? Shall artistic expression for the State's purposes be made compulsory? Shall anything be permitted to reside outside the State? Or shall we as artists--and as people--be free?

Original text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley