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.
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.