The Mermaid

1940-12

 

 

The Mermaid, 1910
Howard Pyle (1853-1911)
Oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 40 1/8 inches
Delaware Art Museum, Gift of the children of Howard Pyle in memory of their mother, Anne Poole Pyle, 1940

Beneath the deepening sky and rising moon, the juncture of opposing forces anchors this work: land vs. water—human vs. mermaid—strong vs. weak. The mythic mermaid rises from the briny foam and rescues a shipwrecked man who was descending into the deep. When Howard Pyle set off on his extended European travels in November 1910, The Mermaid was still on the easel in his studio, unfinished. Despite the later addition of fish and a crab by Pyle’s student Frank Schoonover, what we see today is incomplete, and Pyle’s intentions for this work remain unknown.