Biography: Ellen Bernard Thompson Pyle (1876–1936) was born in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and studied art at Drexel Institute, where she was a student of sculptor Charles Grafly, watercolorist Lydia Austin, and illustrator Howard Pyle. In 1898 and 1899, she was one of the few women students invited to study illustration at Pyle’s Chadds Ford summer school. While a Pyle student, she was one of several who illustrated the novels Janice Meredith (1899) and To Have and To Hold 1900) under his direction.
In 1904, she married Howard Pyle’s brother Walter. When he died in 1919, Ellen Pyle decided to return to illustration to support her four children. She worked up sample illustrations and planned to go to New York City seeking commissions. But before she was able to make the trip, her sister-in-law, the artist Katharine Pyle, took three of Ellen’s samples to The Saturday Evening Post offices in Philadelphia. Greatly impressed, the editor bought two of the three.
A prolific illustrator during the 1920s, Ellen Pyle created covers for Parents’ Magazine, Pictorial Review, and Everybody’s Magazine. But she was most famous for her 40 covers for The Saturday Evening Post. Along with Norman Rockwell and J. C. Leyendecker, Ellen Pyle was one of the select regular cover artists for The Saturday Evening Post from 1922 until her death in 1936. In a 1927 letter to her, Rockwell praised her style. She was one of relatively few women illustrators of the time who did covers for general interest—rather than women’s—magazines. Pyle’s models for the most part were her children and people in her community of Wilmington, Delaware, and the surrounding region.
A Small School of Art. Rowland Elzea and Elizabeth H. Hawkes (eds.). Delaware Art Museum. 1980