Intrepid Women: Annie E. Hoyle

Pen and ink drawing by USDA Forest Service artist Annie E Hoyle 1851-1931

Annie E. Hoyle created this rendering of Balsamorhiza sagittate for the USDA Forest Service, one of over 500 pen and ink botanical illustrations she produced for the agency between 1908 and 1930. The variety of stipple and line textures in this wildflower image are very subtle and delicate. Photo credit: USDA Forest Service Collection, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the Native Tree Portfolio project for the RBGE diploma is the opportunity to learn all kinds of interesting and unexpected things. While researching images of the piñon pine for the art history paper component of the portfolio, I discovered the work of a US Forest Service artist, Annie Elizabeth Hoyle.

Photo of the USDA Forest Service Engineering Staff in 1924.

The Engineering staff of the Washington Office, US Forest Service, March 1924. Photo from US Forest Service Headquarters History Collection at the Forest History Society. Botanical illustrator Annie Elizabeth Hoyle is the woman in the bottom left hand corner of the photo. Formidable!

Annie E. Hoyle was a remarkable woman. Born in West Virginia in 1851, she studied under George H. Story at the National Academy of Design in New York, followed by studies in human anatomy and anatomical drawing at London’s Royal Academy of Art, then studied two more years in Paris and Luxembourg. She also studied plant morphology and botany under Joseph Painter at the US National Museum (now Smithsonian) and Ivar Tidestrom at the Bureau of Plant Industry. She began working for the USDA Forest Service in 1908, when she was in her late 50s, and continued working until 1930, requesting and receiving five deferments to her final retirement. During her tenure at the Forest Service, “Mrs. Hoyle”, as she was known, was the preferred staff artist of scientists such as George B. Sudworth. She died in 1931.

Amorpha occidentalis, a North American wildflower, rendered in pen and ink by USDA Forest Service botanical illustrator, Annie E Hoyle

Notice the variety of textures and “colors” made by the linear ink hatching. Amorpha occidentalis, by Annie E. Hoyle. Photo credit:  USDA Forest Service Collection, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

Such a minimal outline for a life serves only to whet the imagination! Allow me to speculate wildly about this most intrepid woman.

How does a 19th-century girl get from West Virgina to studying at the National Academy of Design in New York? Very few women in that era were able to pursue higher studies in art, and certainly not at the most elite schools in American and Europe. One such woman was the formidable Impressionist Mary Cassatt, but she was born into an extremely wealthy and socially prominent Main Line Philadelphia family. Wealthy and socially progressive families were rather thin on the ground in Charleston, WV, Hoyle’s home town.

Unlike Mary Cassatt or Berthe Morisot, both of whom painted warm domestic subject matter of women and children, or Rosa Bonheur, who specialized in Romantic portraits of animals, Annie E Hoyle studied anatomical art and advanced botany, balancing science and art.

And what about her name? There is only one family name recorded for Annie E. Hoyle. She was known as “Mrs. Hoyle” at the US Forest Service offices, but there is no record of a maiden name. Did she assume the honorific “Mrs.” while studying in Europe in order to avoid the harassment that single women traveling and living alone almost certainly faced at that time? Did she use the title after a divorce?

North American wildflower Amelanchier alnifolia. Botanical illustration for the USDA Forest Service by Annie E Hoyle and James M Shull

Amelanchier alnifolia, pen and ink botanical illustration by Annie E Hoyle with James M Shull. The illustrations in the USDA Forest Service Collection are pen and ink working drawings. Here you can see the adhesive tape, editorial corrections, printer’s instructions and other records of the publishing process. Photo credit: USDA Forest Service Collection, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

The fact that she worked until she was nearly 80 indicates that she had no family to care for her in her old age. Did she have children and a husband at some point, but outlived them all? That’s a definite possibility in that era. Perhaps she was the spinster daughter and sister of her family, estranged due to her eccentric and stubborn choice of an artistic career?

I hope you enjoyed learning about Annie E. Hoyle, a most intrepid and strong-minded woman! What do you think about her work and life story? Leave your thoughts in the comments! 🙂

Resources:

 

Working in the field: ASBA’s new code of ethics for botanical artists

My copy of The Botanical Artist, the American Society of Botanical Artists’ journal, arrived last week. There was a brief notice about the society’s new Code of Ethics for artists working in the field. Artists are encouraged to output and sign the document, then carry it with them in the field as a sort of diplomatic letter of passage for working in ecologically protected areas.

The 7 major principles for botanical artists working in the field are:

  • Follow all rules and regulations when working in a botanical garden or conservation area, and obey any instructions given by staff or officials while on working on site.
  • Do not dig up or disturb any plant on site, for any reason, unless given explicit permission by the land owner or staff/officials of the conservation area/garden in order to dissect or identify the plant.
  • Minimize disturbance to the habitat and ecosystem of the area. Walk carefully; place tripods, stools and other tools with care. Avoid damaging soils, other plants, seedlings.
  • Minimize disturbance in the vicinity of the plant. Create a minimal work footprint to avoid damaging any other species or specimens.
  • Inform the landowner or your contact for the site if you observe any disturbances to the natural environment while working.
  • Do not reveal the location of protected areas to other people. Refer them to the person or organization who granted you permission/guided you to the site.
  • These principles hold not only for working with native plants in their natural sites, but for all plant life in all locations.

All very common sense, right?

All of this is the kind of stuff you learn as a kid camping with the Scouts, or your first hikes with your family and friends. Why do these concepts require enunciation and publicizing to a group of people who ought to already be aware of the basics of conservation and outdoor activities?

Of course, we now live in a world where “nature deficit disorder” afflicts an increasing number of children, and where an increasing number of young adults are worried and concerned about “the environment,” yet very few of them have actually spent any time outdoors enjoying nature.

Perhaps it speaks to the number of people who are drawn to botanical art as urban and suburban garden and art lovers, but who have little background in outdoor pursuits.

This year I’d like to devote a few posts to minimizing your impact while hiking and painting in the outdoors. Unfortunately, there will also be examples of idiots who flagrantly destroy the natural environment in their pursuit of outdoor enjoyment. Look for the category “Leave No Trace” and tag, “Outdoor etiquette” to read more about how you can enjoy plein-air painting on public lands while treading lightly!

ASBA’s Core Values page and the society’s Code of Ethics for fieldwork can be found at the ASBA website.

The Native Tree Project

Mature piñon pine tree, Pinus edulis, on the banks of a small arroyo in the high desert of New Mexico.

This piñon pine near my home will be the model for a 2-year portfolio project.

As part of the RBGE Distance Diploma in Botanical Illustration, I need to document the life of a native or historic tree for 2 years.

Choosing a tree was surprisingly difficult. I was very enamored of the heirloom varieties of apple, pear and apricot trees that were planted throughout the Four Corners states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, the Randall Davey Audubon Center here in Santa Fe has such an old orchard dating back to the 1890s, and I talked with them about using one of their trees in exchange for a lecture or exhibit to help with their programming. Unfortunately, their orchard doesn’t always bear fruit every year due to the extreme climate at the top of Canyon Road. I couldn’t find another tree of the same variety to serve as an understudy if the star couldn’t perform, so the search continued.

A horse chestnut on Canyon Road at the Santa Fe Historical Foundation’s HQ, El Zaguan, caught my eye. The last survivor of an historical garden and chestnut grove dating to the 1850s, this imposing specimen is a beautiful anomaly in this desert city. The foundation’s office staff gave me the impression that the foundation was not going to work hard to save the tree if its health began to fail as, “it had already lived past its normal lifespan.” So the hunt continued.

The aspen grove located in the Santa Fe National Forest in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains also intrigued me. Aspens are like grass: essentially a large, single, clone organism. This particular grove is perhaps one of the largest in North America. Even though this grove is just across town, getting there entails a 45-minute drive–in good weather. I’ll need to be able to check on the tree’s status at least weekly, and more frequently at key lifecycle points, so this was rather inconvenient.

Finally, I realized the answer was in front of my eyes. The piñon pine, or Pinus edulis, is the state tree of New Mexico. It also grows all over the high desert around my exurban house in an environment described as piñon-juniper woodlands. It’s an important food source for animals and humans. Individual trees have beautiful forms, sculpted by wind and weather. Existential drama comes from an epidemic onslaught of an insect pest.

I hope you’ll enjoy learning along with me more about this icon of the Southwest!

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