The American master illustrator Howard Pyle forged this tragic image in 1909 at the height of his popularity. Marooned is an imagined reproduction of a pirate left by his crew to die on a desert island. Beautifully illustrating the ability of this dramatic painter to waver between fine art and populist image-making, Pyle's canvas is a vast narrative on canvas, articulated by the expansive emptiness of the beach and the coiled sorrow of the sailor. A much-lauded popular figure in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, Pyle was one of North America's most recognizable illustrators, achieving the status of celebrity with his captivating visual narratives. At a time when magazines were read by all ages and classes Pyle frequently featured in Harper’s Monthly, Collier’s Weekly, St. Nicholas, and Scribner’s Magazine, and consequently played an immeasurable part in the establishment and consolidation of American visual culture. Through his shaping of a shared national consciousness, Pyle's idiosyncratic style can be seen in literature in Hemingway, in cinema in early silent historical-dramas, and throughout comic book art.
Marooned, one of the more tragic images in Pyle's pirate oeuvre, depicts the tradition of abandoning a crew-member, sometimes the Captain, in a remote location - often only a tiny desert island. The individual was often left with a container of food, water, and a revolver to end their life when hope expired. Almost always a fatal punishment, the act of marooning is imbued with the desolation and loneliness of man's existence. By the late-nineteenth century reproductions of Pyle's images began reaching audiences further ashore than the United States. When Vincent van Gogh came across Pyle's work he was in awe of the dramatic narrative style achieved within the confines of the page. A formal innovator in illustration, Pyle's appeal was felt most enthusiastically amongst children, giving life to the great children's books of the early-twentieth century which would nurture a generation of visual thinkers and film-minds.
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