Editor's note: The following essay was rekeyed and reprinted on January 12, 2006 in Resource Library with permission of Thomas Nygard, Inc. and the author. The essay was excerpted from the 2005 illustrated book titled Philip R. Goodwin, The Studies, ISBN 0-9620327-6-X. Images accompanying the text in the book were not reproduced with this reprinting. If you have questions or comments regarding the essay, or if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book, please contact Thomas Nygard Gallery at either this web address or phone number:
Goodwin's Life: An Illustrated Adventure
by Erin Anderson
Modern viewpoints in late nineteenth century Europe, regarding fast-growing cities and industrial booms, to the contrasting utopia of the countryside, stood at the pinnacle of the art world in terms of what was produced and what was desired. As more and more Americans traveled to Europe, the taste for such avant-garde movements flourished. Attracted to more lyrical paintings of representation, those not academic in style, American artists were enticed by idyllic, romantic landscapes of historical references in Europe. However, some chose to express their national zeal, to look at the American landscape which still held for them the promise of paradise and dreams of Manifest Destiny. Philip R. Goodwin was an artist who captured the beauty of the natural world that continued to thrive beneath the steps of humanity. He chose to embrace the life that was more relaxed, clean, and spacious rather than contend with booming cities, industry, and humanization. It could be argued that Goodwin was a prominent precursor for American Regionalism -- a humble anti-modernist approach to everyday life, a delightful phenomenon that was appealing to twentieth century Americans.
Philip R. Goodwin was arguably one of the more influential artists to have surfaced from the "Golden Age of American Illustration". He was an accomplished artist who painted what he enjoyed most in life -- the outdoors, wildlife, and the conservation of the wilderness. Goodwin embraced nature and skillfully captured the majesty of the outdoors, proving to be a representative of his own personal ideals, while encouraging his contemporaries to embrace the same. He insisted upon the importance of connecting with nature, being in front of his subjects to study them first-hand in their own habitats. This proved to be integral in how and why he produced multiple studies, examining the different ways to capture the individuality of every subject or theme. In Phillip R. Goodwin: the Studies, we are given a unique glimpse into the intense and fascinating mind of an artist processing his vision, reaching the cusp of an incredible creation.
Born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1881 to John Bray Goodwin and Ella Raymond Goodwin, Philip was the son of a successful architect, though money for his family always seemed at arm's reach. Growing up dominantly in Philadelphia, Philip had a wonderful relationship with both his parents and siblings. As a child, his mother read to him from such tales as Robinson Crusoe, Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, Charles Dickens, and even more significantly, Frederic Remington, who was considered the premier Western artist of the time, and whose illustrations were to become Goodwin's earliest inspiration. He would often dive into his sketchbooks, filling them with illustrations of his interpretations of the stories. Early on, he developed a fascination with cowboys, Indians, and the wilderness of the West. His curiosity with the American West intensified after taking a trip to see the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show with one of his uncles.
Encouragement to continue his illustrations was continually offered by his extended family members. An uncle took Philip into his home in Rhode Island when he was young so that he could attend classes at the Rhode Island School of Design, which would prove to be a lucrative asset in his artistic education. Goodwin studied both painting and sculpture at school, providing for him multiple outlets for his creativity to grow. His frequent letters to his parents, adorned with illustrations of Indians, cowboys, cyclists and animals, not only exposed his developing studies of movement, but improved them.
At the school, Goodwin shined among the other students. His instructor of free hand, Tracy Tolman, wrote a letter to the Drexel Institute of Art and Industry in Philadelphia boasting of his young student's incredible natural artistic talents. In the fall of 1898, Goodwin entered the institute where he was taken under the wing of the famous illustrator and artist, Howard Pyle. Pyle at the time was considered to be one of the greatest living American illustrators and was quite impressed with Goodwin's abilities. Among some of Pyle's other students were Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn, Stanley Arthurs, Frank Schoonover, W.H.D. Koerner, and Frank Stick. Pyle encouraged Goodwin to create compositions in accord with his own methods. This method was taught by drawing and sometimes painting multiple sketches, to practice with numerous viewpoints, characters, and colors, studying what would be the most appealing design and still maintain the theme of the picture. This intense attention to composition was to become vital to Goodwin's style when designing his most famous collections of "predicament paintings". Goodwin pleased his famous teacher and Pyle became the leading character in Goodwin's budding career. Under Pyle's guidance, Goodwin became a highly sought after, up-and-coming illustrator. Pyle provided for him contacts with catalog and magazine companies -- companies that provided Goodwin with commissions that afforded his livelihood until his death in 1935.
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