Restored art with local connection on display in De Pere

Some paintings by Howard Pyle are on display at St. Norbert College in De Pere.
Some paintings by Howard Pyle are on display at St. Norbert College in De Pere.

DE PERE – Some recently restored artwork with a local connection is on display in De Pere.

Twenty-two paintings, including scenes from the American Revolution-era, make up a free exhibit at St. Norbert College.

The artwork is by Howard Pyle, a painter from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The paintings are owned by the Green Bay-De Pere Antiquarian Society, a group of people that study or collect antiques.

Even though Pyle’s work is more than a century old, it has a big connection to recent art.

In the eyes of Carol Jones, the features of a painting by Pyle tell a story.

“The beauty of the light that makes it seem like you are entering into eternity,” described Jones.

“The appeal here is anybody that’s interested in history, in particular, colonial history,” she continued.

Joanne Rathburn is the governor of the antiquarian group.

“Howard Pyle is called the father of American illustration,” said Rathburn.

Rathburn also says the way Pyle painted pirates has impacted the movie industry.

“Hollywood has also used Mr. Pyle’s works. The Pirates of the Caribbean are based on Mr. Pyle’s characters and some of his plots,” she said.

Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series, isn’t the only fictional hero influenced by Pyle.

“Most young boys have read Robin Hood, and the Knights of the Round Table. Those are all works of Mr. Pyle,” said Rathburn.

The paintings were wrapped up and dusty in December 2007. That’s when the Brown County Library was looking to sell the collection.

The local antiquarian group raised money in the community and bought the paintings for $1.2 million.

“Very grateful to the community at large for supporting our efforts,” said Jones.

The group wanted the collection to be refurbished so the community could value its significance for years to come.

Bill Casper did some of the restoration work.

“Each one of these paintings depicts an important event in history,” said Casper.

“Cleaning them is of course not like cleaning your carpeting or cleaning your furniture. When we got into it, we found that there were many layers of different types of dirt and things that had to be taken off the paintings,” he described.

And now, the vividly restored art is hanging for you to see.

“The color just pops out,” commented Jones.

The exhibit is located in the Bush Art Center on the St. Norbert Campus. It’s free and open to the public.

You can check it out Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The exhibit ends February 7.

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