Pittsburgh Student Sketch Book, Drawing and Drafting Exercises, ca. 1900
Original marbled paper covered boards, neatly rebacked. Oblong quarto, 9.25 x 11.75 inches. 22 leaves used recto-only, all but the first two with tissue guards tipped-in at the gutter. Dampstaining along the foredge and to the bottom gutter, leaving about a half-inch tidemark on most of the pages, with the first two (without the tissue guards) extending an additional inch or so. Good overall. "Property of the Pittsburgh School District" paper label on the cover personalized by Flora Yagle, 8th year, Fulton School. She was likely 13-14 years old, dating the sketchbook to around 1900.
An eclectic collection of work beginning with a color chart composed with mounted slips of paper, some oxidized around the edges. Two pages each have a dried herbarium specimen next to a matching watercolor drawing. These pages appear at the front and back of the collection with a mix of still-life studies, ornamental designs, and geometrical and perspective exercises in between. Two pages have the shapes for cutting out paper models of geometrical solids, another has a copy of an architectural scale measure. These drawings were accomplished with the aid of a compass and ruler and are distinctly more refined than the freehand drawings.
The student's work includes a brief illustrated paragraph about "The Lotus" written in vertical script. Several still-life studies of fruit, geometric solids, a chair, a folding screen, a burning candle perched on top of a book with a nicely gestured newspaper beside it. One of only two drawings with figures shows two children facing a wall, as if being punished. The boy looks particularly... uncomfortable. The second also shows a girl facing away, her top half obscured by an open umbrella. In comparison to the meticulous drafting exercises, these freehand drawings look particularly naive but appropriate to the girl's age and skill level. It's perhaps a testament to the prioritization of technical drawing skills in turn-of-the-century art education.
Fulton Elementary School was built in 1894 in Highland Park, a traditionally affluent neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Flora Yagle (1887-1960) was the daughter of a local foundry manager. The quality of the sketchbook, as well as details like the very fine set of ringlets on the girl in the drawings, hints at the privilege of her education and upbringing. Flora and her sister, Mary, never married, but remained in their family's Highland Park residence and worked for the city public schools in their adult years.