Academics usually refer to Howard Pyle as one of the greatest illustrators of his time. I disagree. Howard Pyle was the greatest and the best, The Man. Not to take anything away from his famous peers: Edwin A. Abbey, A.B. Frost and Frederick Remington, but Pyle was not content to continue copying himself in the same old way as they did for the most part, and he was at least as prodigious, turning out two illustrations a week, or 3,300 published illustrations during a 35-year career. Included among these were almost 200 stories that he wrote as well as illustrated.
He was born in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1853 in comfortable surroundings. His father was a leather manufacturer, his mother encouraged his interest in the arts and literature from an early age by reading to him and acquainting him with fine books.
Later, he studied art in Philadelphia and began teaching at the young age of 19. Four years later Scribner’s Monthly Magazine published his first illustrated poem in their July 1876 issue. [I have tried to find this in the Cornell on-line library but have been unsuccessful. Perhaps it in the June issue, which is not listed in their collection.]
He taught at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (now Drexel University), Philadelphia, at his own school in Wilmington, Delaware and his summer school in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, in the Delaware River Gap. Many of Pyle's "students" were mostly practicing illustrators who came for critiques rather than for lessons as such.
Howard Pyle’s first full-color illustration appeared in 1897. I do not have a copy of this but I offer this instead, a fascinating composition of a woman playing a mandolin, one of several that accompanied A Puppet of Fate, an Extravaganza for the Christmas Season, which he wrote as well as illustrated. It appeared in Harper's Monthly for December 1899. Click on image to enlarge.
One of his most famous and most recognizable illustrations appears next.
Here's Pyle at his best. Look at those feet. Conventional wisdom has it that hands are the most difficult to draw, but I say it's feet. These feet are comfortable in their sandals and the character is grounded, to use a contemporary expression.
This is the title page where that illustration, among others, appeared. The black-and-white illustrations by Pyle are equally as competently done. Click on image below to enlarge.