We tend to think of work done on assignment as being somehow cheaper than work springing entirely from the mind of the artist. Art on demand never strikes us as anything but commercial. If we allow that prejudice to prevent us from enjoying shows such as the Delaware Art Museum’s On Assignment: American Illustration, 1850—1950, the loss is entirely ours. Howard Pyle and his school of followers set a gold standard for illustration that turned mundane literature into sublime images. In our photography-dominated periodicals of today, Pyle and his people seem to belong not just to a different time, but to a different planet. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "School Assignments."
[Many thanks to the Delaware Art Museum for providing me with the image above and other press materials for On Assignment: American Illustration, 1850—1950, which runs through January 2, 2011.]