New Fall Exhibits Focus on Major Works in the History of American Illustration

Significant endeavor in the history of illustration provides the focus for two new exhibits coming to the Baer Gallery this fall semester. 

The gallery will feature the works of Howard Pyle, known particularly for his work illustrating books for young people, and a traveling exhibition of contemporary illuminated manuscript pages from the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible, “a work of art that unites an ancient Benedictine tradition with the technology and vision of today, illuminating the Word of God for a new millennium.”

Howard Pyle in Wisconsin
Supported by a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), paintings by “the father of American illustration,” Howard Pyle, will be on display at the Baer Dec. 2-Feb. 7. “Howard Pyle in Wisconsin” traces the checkered history of a collection of paintings by Pyle that arrived in Green Bay in 1904. The exhibit features a collection of four color paintings, “Travels of the Soul,” and 18 historical black and white paintings. 

The “Travels of the Soul” collection was originally printed in magazines to show off the new technology of color printing in the golden age of publication. The 18 historical paintings were created to illustrate the text of “Colonies and Nations,” written by Pyle’s friend and future United States president, Woodrow Wilson. The 18 paintings were eventually donated to the public library in Green Bay. 

At one point in time, both sets of artwork were in peril. The library planned to sell the collection but, thanks to an intense fundraising effort by the Antiquarian Society of Green Bay and De Pere, they were kept in the community. The “Travels of the Soul” paintings were once lent to the Delaware Art Museum, but were lost for six years during their return trip to Green Bay. The paintings were eventually found in a Chicago warehouse and returned. “They’re meant to be here, I think,” says Shan Bryan-Hanson, the college’s art curator.

The NEA grant will also help fund the production of a catalog to accompany the exhibit, the first endeavor of its kind at St. Norbert. The catalog will be designed by Brian Pirman (Art), with an essay by Heather Campbell, curator of American art at the Delaware Art Museum. “It’s a great thing,” says Bryan-Hanson. “We’re excited about it. We’re working hard.”

The St. John’s Bible 
Gallery visitors can enjoy pages of The St. John’s Bible through a traveling exhibit featuring Heritage Edition prints of the hand-illuminated manuscript. This immense project, undertaken by a team of professional scribes under the direction of calligrapher Donald Jackson, combines centuries-old traditions of craftsmanship with the latest capabilities of computer technology and electronic communication. Pages created with a contemporary design sensibility are adorned with ornament and lettering that makes use of brilliant colors and precious metals. 

Smithsonian magazine has described the completed Bible, commissioned in 1998 by Saint John’s Abbey and Saint John’s University, as “one of the extraordinary undertakings of our time.” 

The gallery calendar for 2013-14
This year’s schedule includes work on display in the three galleries on campus. 

  • Aug. 26-Sept. 21: John Rieben, “Design with Intent”
  • Aug. 26-Sept. 28: April Beiswenger, “My Worldly Solace”
  • Sept. 30-Oct. 26: “The Saint John’s Bible”
  • Nov. 4-7: Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition
  • Dec. 2-Feb. 8: “Howard Pyle in Wisconsin”
  • Feb. 17-March 14: Katie Ries, “This Land Is Your Land” 
  • March 31-May 3: Senior Art Exhibition
Aug. 6, 2013