Painter’s Folly

After losing some photos last year I set out to recapture some places around the Brandywine Valley. One of those was the Battlefield (but we’ll get to that sometime soon on another day). On the battlefield I’ve always spied the house next door with it’s beautiful architecture, quite unique around here, and especially that widow’s peak at top. And in the years since I first spotted this house I’ve become a bit bolder and better with the camera and this time I was going to get some shots of it too. Plus it was for sale so you never know what it’s future will hold. Since it was on the market I knew I’d be able to see photos of the inside too, perfectly satisfying all my curiosities!

Painter’s Folly, as the house is called, was the home of the artist Howard Pyle. You’re probably uncertain of the name but you’ve most likely seen some of his work. I once paid a nice sum to see a pirate exhibit at the Pointe-à-Callière museum in Montreal only to find reproductions and giant cut-outs of Pyle’s “Treasure Island” everywhere, borrowed from local museums in the Brandywine. I should have asked for my money back.

Originally the house was built in 1857 by Samuel Painter as a summer home. I think everyone grand home that’s appeared on this blog starts out that way, always a summer home. But once Pyle rented the house in the early 1900’s it became the Brandywine School of Art (we’ll talk about the famous artists that sprang from that soon too but you can see Andrew Wyeth’s Painter’s Folly work right here: “Glass House“, “Widow’s Walk” and “Renfield” from inside the widow’s peak and “Painter’s Folly” of the outside…and the weirdest Wyeth work I’ve ever seen).

The couple who just sold the home have lived there for the last 40 years and became friends with Wyeth who still felt inspired by the home long after Pyle was deceased.  Soon after they moved in in 1974 they found a man out in their backyard painting. After recovering from the shock the found out that it was Wyeth, they became friends and eventually he would paint them too (you can see that one here)!

Howard Pyle was an artist who had quite the following. Born a Quaker in 1858 in Wilmington, Delaware he found success as an artist almost immediately. Mark Twain was such a fan he insisted that only Pyle could illustrate some of his works. Van Gogh wrote to his brother that Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood had struck him “dumb with admiration.” He also worked on pieces for President Woodrow Wilson and author Robert Louis Stevenson. Many of his illustrated books are still in print today.

In 1881 he married the singer Anne Poole and they had seven children. Their eldest, Sellers Poole Pyle was their only child who didn’t make it to adulthood. He died at the age of seven from croup.

In 1910 Howard travelled to Florence in Italy to study mural painting. The next year he died from a sudden onset of Bright’s Disease, a kidney infection, and was interred in Italy. (Poet Emily Dickinson died of the same ailment and actress Jean Harlow suffered from it too). He was 58.


Here are some photos from the original real estate listing for an inside look!

All photos from real estate listing were found at this source. All photos from real estate listing.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5