I couldn’t move on from the recent posts about shape welding and the Pyle school without mentioning one other quality of the Brandywine tradition that I so admire. Again, there’s no name for it that I’ve ever encountered, so I propose the word “clustering.”
Clustering is the method Pyle used so often to arrange a tight group of detail in one interest area, in contrast with large blank areas. This composition, called "Extorting Tribute from the Citizens," packs dozens of faces in one small section in front of the arch, while keeping the wall above and the street below completely empty.
Anyone but Pyle would have painted this scene from "Sinbad on Burrator" with the figures spaced out evenly, each silhouette separate from the others. By clustering them all together, the eye sees them as one shape first and wants to go in and sort them out.
Shape welding and clustering look easy, but in my experience it takes real determination to pull them off. I have to fight the lunkhead instinct which wants to line up the toy soldiers, spread out the cookies on the table, give everything equal importance, and define every edge equally.
I can't wait until this Friday, when we'll bring you via this blog to the Delaware Art Museum, home of Howard Pyle's originals.