Factual information about pirates is scarce. Most stories and books about the rascals are based on the vivid imagination of their authors and some facts and dates gleaned from the few titles published at the time that pirates, such as William Kidd, were tried before judges, sentenced and convicted before being hanged in a public spectacle.
In Kidd's case, it took a jury all of 30 minutes to decide his fate, which was carried out at Execution Dock, London, on 12 May 1701, only three days after sentence was imposed.
John D. Champlin, Jr., the author of this seemingly accurate piece is also noted as co-author of a treatise on tiddlywinks, published in The Young Folks' Cyclopaedia of Games and Sports, by John D. Champlin Jr. and Arthur E. Bostwick, 1890. Click on image to enlarge detail of the drawing.
Pyle has drawn an imaginary portrait of William Kidd. The cold steely eyes make him a very scary creature, indeed. However, there is an article in the papers of author Thomas Janvier in Harvard's Houghton Library entitled Captain Kidd Not a Pirate written by the very same John D. Champlin, Jr. Could he have had a change of heart?
Click on this images and those below to enlarge.
The technique which Pyle used for these drawings appears to be some kind of pencil application. We know from Henry Pitz's book that he taught his students to draw with sharpened sticks of artist's charcoal on French charcoal paper, but this looks as if he might have used colored pencils on papers of various textures. Or the drawings could be reproductions of color lithographs. (Watercolor over charcoal would only cause problems unless an entire drawing was totally preserved by a fixative spray.) In any case, they are meticulously done and completely different from the pirate painting from The Fate of a Treasure Town that appeared in the first Howard Pyle post uploaded.
This has endured as one of Howard Pyle's most famous pirate images. It was the last illustration in this piece that appeared in Harper's New Monthly Magazine for December 1902.
Next: More Pirates – Probably Howard Pyle's Best Illustrations