Media File
Henry Clarence Pitz
Date: American painter, illustrator, author, 1895–1976
Biography: Henry Clarence Pitz (1895 - 1976) was the only child of Anna Rosina (nee Steiffel) and Henry William Pitz. Her family were German immigrants; he trained as a bookbinder in Munich, before moving to Philadelphia in the 1880s to open his own bookbindery and leather workshop. The family home was at 29th and Poplar streets.

Pitz showed an early talent for drawing. He became an avid fan of Howard Pyle's work. As a youth, he frequented the studio of illustrator Julius Kumme. He went to Central Manual School, and in 1914 he was graduated from West Philadelphia High School with a scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum School of Art. There he studied with former Pyle student Thornton Oakley. Subsequently he heard lectures by other Pyle students Walter Everett, Maurice Bower, Harvey Dunn, and George Harding at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He also met Pyle students Violet Oakley, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Charlotte Harding, and Elizabeth Shippen Green.

Often Pitz attended the theater, ballet, concerts, lectures, and art exhibits. In 1917, he enlisted in the Army Medical Corps as an X-ray technician assigned to Base Camp 56, Allerey, France, assisting Colonel Coates, a Philadelphia surgeon, in the operating room. He continued to sketch in his spare time. Following the armistice in November 1918, he accompanied Colonel Coates and Captain Sheldon on an inspection tour of Luxembourg and Alsace-Lorraine and filled a sketchbook with pictures of the destruction of war.

Returning to Philadelphia, Pitz initially taught other veterans at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art. In 1920, he showed his portfolio to art editors of several New York publishing houses and came back to Philadelphia with a commission to illustrate John Bennett's Master Skylark. This was the first of more than 250 projects he undertook during the next five decades.

In 1928, Century Company invited Pitz and Edward Warwick to write and illustrate a book. "Early American Costume" became a reference tool still used today. Pitz subsequently wrote 17 more books of which many were "how-to" books aimed at the art students, including The Practice of Illustration; Drawing Trees; Pen, Brush and Ink; How to Use the Figure; A Treasury of American Book Illustration, and Illustrating Children's Books.

Pitz joined the staff of American Artist, a monthly magazine published in New York under editors Arthur Guptill and Ernest Watson, and later Norman Kent and Susan Meyer. As an associate editor and writer, during the next forty years Henry contributed numerous articles about illustrators, printmakers, advertising artists, and painters - American and European.

Pitz was also a teacher. In 1934, Edward Warwick, then Dean at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, asked him to head the newly formed Department of Pictorial Expression. For the next twenty-six years he taught many illustrators and artists, including Joseph and Beth Krush, Helen and William Hamilton, Sidney Goodman, Edward Smith, Albert Gold, Howard Womer, Edward Michener, Ranulph Bye, Isa Barnett, Paul Keene, Jacob Landau, and Howard Watson. His colleagues at the School were Earle Horter, John Lear, Ben Eisenstat, John Geiszel, Edward Shenton, Ben Solowey, and William Emerton Heitland.

Pitz to the Philadelphia Sketch Club, the Philadelphia Watercolor Club, the Art Alliance of Philadelphia, as well as the Salmagundi and Society of Illustrators in New York. In 1950 he was elected to the National Academy of Design. He exhibited widely, for which he won many prizes for his watercolors, prints, drawings, and illustrations, and served as a frequent juror for art exhibitions.

Lovell Thompson, then editor-in-chief at Houghton, Mifflin and Company in Boston, commission him to write The Brandywine Tradition, published in 1969, an interpretive text drawing on his study of Pyle's (and his students') art and instruction. Three years later Clarkson Potter, Inc., a New York Publishing house, commissioned him to write Howard Pyle: Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine Tradition, which was published in 1975.

Pitz garnered various honors. He was granted a fellowship at the Huntington Hartford Foundation near Los Angeles. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration asked him to be one of the artists who recorded the Apollo launch to the moon from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in May 1969. In 1970, he was invited to join the Franklin Inn, a literary club in Philadelphia whose members were leaders in the fields of education, journalism, and the arts and sciences. He continued to teach at Philadelphia Museum School of Art, by then called the Philadelphia College of Art. In 1971, Pitz received a Doctorate of Letters from Ursinus College, and the Philadelphia Athenaeum awarded him a prize for The Brandywine Tradition.

In 1935, Henry had married Molly Wood in Chestnut Hill. During most of their married life they lived in Plymouth Meeting; they had raised two children, Juha Leaming Pitz Handy Barringer and Henry William Pitz II. They traveled both abroad and in the western United States. In his last year of life, Pitz had two one-man shows, and wrote the text for the book 200 Years of American Illustration. He was working on a painting the day before he died in his eighty first year, November 26, 1976.