The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933
Arnold Pyle

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Arnold Pyle (1908-1973) - faculty

A lifelong resident of Cedar Rapids, Arnold Pyle was both a recognized painter and teacher. His eighth grade art teacher at McKinley High School, Grant Wood, would become his mentor and a longtime friend. After graduating from high school in 1927, Pyle became Wood's studio assistant. His formal art instruction came from apprenticing with Wood, Marvin Cone, and Adrian Dornbush. By his mid-twenties, Pyle was exhibiting widely, writing art reviews for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and winning major art prizes.

Pyle assisted Edward Rowan at the Little Gallery in Cedar Rapids for five years, serving as exhibitions manager and as an instructor for the gallery's regular, children's art clases. He held major roles in notable Grant Wood projects. First, the two men paired to design and install a stained glass window commission for the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. Unable to find American craftsmen who could handle the intricacy required for replicating the window's human faces, Wood lived in Germany while a Munich firm completed this task. The project cost roughly $9,000 in 1927 and encompassed 8,000-10,000 pieces of glass.

Pyle then joined Grant Wood at the Stone City Art Colony. There, he taught painting and the incredibly popular picture framing classes during the 1932 session. Due to sheer demand for this skill, Pyle had a teaching assistant (Dennis Burlingame) for the colony's second year. During this decade, Pyle won several awards at the Iowa Art Salon (Iowa State Fair) for both oils and watercolors. Following the art colony, he was selected for Wood's Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) WPA mural team, creating installations for Parks Library (1934-1936). Pyle's particular responsibility was to mix the oil paints and to achieve a limited color scheme that would complement the building's Minnesota, travertine stone. The creative efforts of fourteen student artists produced the only PWAP mural to be placed in an American university, "When Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow." The young assistant was also immortalized by Wood in the 1930 painting, "Arnold Comes of Age," part of the permanent collection found in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery.

Pyle won numerous, major Iowa State Fair art prizes from 1930-1938, including the J.N. Darling Purchase Prize for his 1928 oil painting "Landscape." "Big Hooks," an oil depicting Rock Island Railroad cranes at work, won the 1936 first place in oil, the sweepstakes prize, and was declared best in show. "Train Moving" received accolades at the 129th annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1936). In 1938, Pyle exhibited "Round House Fire" and placed second in the art salon's oil division. During this productive period, Pyle joined the Cooperative Mural Painters Group of Cedar Rapids (a division of the Treasury Relief Art Project, TRAP), headed by Francis Robert ("Bob") White. The team's notable project was the highly controversial WPA mural at the Linn County federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids, installed in 1936. Complaints about the mural's subject matter from jurors and legal professionals mainly developed from its scenes of a lynching and of administering primitive medicine on the prairie. Eventually, the court ordered the mural painted over in 1964.

During the 1930's, Pyle's career garnered him national recognition, particularly for his paintings of locomotives. The recurring theme may be atrributed to the artist's father being an engineer for the Rock Island Railroad and his son having much time in trainyards. In 1935, Pyle began a position at Collins Radio Company as advertising manager, then as personnel manager. Until 1941, he managed to paint while working full-time but eventually abandoned his canvas while World War II put heavy demands on the Collins' workforce. Pyle stopped painting for about twenty years.

After retiring from Rockwell-Collins in 1968, Pyle returned to the life of an artist. Choosing not to revert to his previous, realist style, he painted abstractions, often of planets and stars. His last one-man show was held at the Cedar Rapids Art Center in January 1973. In June of that same year, while returning from the Grant Wood Art Festival in Anamosa, Pyle was killed in an automobile accident.

Pyle exhibited widely in many Iowa galleries and at the Iowa State Fair. He had Midwest, one-man shows in Council Bluffs, at the Sioux City Art Center (1938), at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, and the Increase Robinson's Gallery in Chicago. Additional showings occurred at the Kansas City Midwestern Exhibition (1934), Chicago Exposition (1935), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1936), the Corcoran Gallery, the International Watercolor Show (1934), the Phillips Gallery (Washington, D.C.) (1936), and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Online Resources for Arnold Pyle:

City of Cedar Rapids. "Grant Wood Window: Veterans Memorial Commission." Available:

Haven, Janet. “Portraiture.” From “Going Back to Iowa: The World of Grant Wood.” Available:

Iowa State University, Parks Library. “Murals Designed by Grant Wood.” Available:

Iowa State University, Parks Library. “Grant Wood Mural: Other Arts Follow, Engineering Panel.” Available:

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery. “Arnold Comes of Age. By Grant Wood.” Available:

Published Works

Wood, Grant, Park Rinard, and Arnold Pyle. Catalog of a loan exhibition of drawings and paintings. [Chicago]: Lakeside Press, 1935.

In the collection of Mary Ann Reiter, Ottumwa, Iowa. Image courtesy of Ms. Reiter and photographer Michael W. Lemberger.

In the collection of Mary Ann Reiter, Ottumwa, Iowa. Image courtesy of Ms. Reiter and photographer Michael W. Lemberger.

“Czech Village.” (ca. 1934). Image provided by Jay Kacena, Marion, Iowa.

"Boxcar." (undated). Image provided by Jay Kacena, Marion, Iowa.

"Lavender Section #56." (1972) Image provided by Jay Kacena, Marion, Iowa

"Yards at Marion." (undated) Image provided by Pat Klopfenstein, Marion, Iowa

"Landscape" (undated painting of the 8th Avenue Bridge) Owned by the Marion Heritage Center. Image provided by Jay Kacena, Marion Iowa.

Selection from the faculty group photo (1933) found on the Resources Page. Used with permission of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

Selection from the faculty group photo (1933) found on the Resources Page. Photo courtesy of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

Also in the 1932 Male Faculty photo on the Resources Page.




When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School
Published online October 2003 by the
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Cedar Rapids, Iowa
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