Aaron Gunn Pyle (1909-1972)

Aaron Gunn Pyle (1909-1972)

Born in Towanda, Kansas, Aaron Gunn Pyle was raised in Chappell, Nebraska, and found time to pursue the two passions in his life, tending to his family’s 128 acres of farmland and painting the residents, animals and expansive landscape that defined Nebraska in the mid-twentieth century.  In the late 1920s, Pyle attended the University of Washington for two years and briefly took classes at the Cornish Art School in Seattle, but his most influential schooling took place under the guidance of Thomas Hart Benton at the Kansas City Art Institute from 1938-1941. Fellow students recalled Pyle arriving at class in the late fall, after the harvest, and leaving again in March to begin the planting season. Pyle was one of Benton’s favorite pupils and the two later went on several sketching trips to Nebraska. In 1955, Benton wrote of his pupil with esteem: 

Although the exigencies of running a farm took most of his time, he had become successful enough with his paintings to be rated as a leading Nebraska artist…He was a true Regionalist, perhaps closer to being a real one than any of the rest of us, for he lived continually with his subjects. Aaron, some twenty years younger than I, was big and strong, handy with tools, used to outdoor life, and above all quiet, quiet like the land he came from.[1]

[1] Under the Influence: The Students of Thomas Hart Benton, by Marianne Berardi, The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, 1993, p. 132.

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Pyle exhibited his work at the Associated American Artists in New York, at the Joslyn Art Museum and the Denver Art Museum, and had a solo show at the Old World Art Gallery in Kansas City in May 1972. He passed away later that year in Chappell, Nebraska.

References: Berardi, Under the Influence: The Students of Thomas Hart Benton, 1993; Vose Galleries’ archives.

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