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Frank Schoonover

 (1877 - 1972)
Frank Earle Schoonover was active/lived in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey.  Frank Schoonover is known for illustration-Indians and mountain men.

Frank Schoonover

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Frank Schoonover
Born in Oxford, New Jersey, an industrial town, Frank Schoonover earned a reputation as a skilled illustrator and as a portrait, figure and landscape painter of lively western scenes. He was also a teacher from his studio and from the John Herron Art Institute.

Schoonover grew up spending his summers in the Pocono Mountains, which gave him "an affinity for wilderness scenes". (Zellman 744)

Howard Pyle, with whom he studied at the Drexel Institute, in Wilmington and at Chadd's Ford, was the biggest influence on Schoonover and emphasized the importance of immersing himself in the subject matter he was going to depict.

Schoonover studied for nine years at the Model School in Trenton, and in 1896 entered the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia. He opened a studio close to Pyle's in Wilmington, Delaware, and received his first western illustration assignment in 1899. In order to prepare himself for wilderness travel, he went into Hudson Bay country in 1903 and traveled by dog team and snowshoes. He returned in 1911 and over the years did numerous illustrations of that part of the country.. He also traveled in the Bayou country of Mississippi and wrote a book of these experiences: "Lafitte, the Pirate of the Gulf".

Frank Schoonover made his first trip to the West in 1906, visiting Denver, and then took a short trip to Europe. In 1914, he settled in Pike County, Pennsylvania and for a decade had a thriving career as a magazine and book illustrator including commissions for "Treasure Island," "Robinson Crusoe," and "The Swiss Family Robinson." During that time, it is thought that his work reached about five-million readers a month.

However, he determined in the mid-1930s that he could not keep up that pace, and he turned to landscape and portrait painting in which he injected his love of drama that characterized his illustration. Often his painting was dominated by an action-packed figure such as an Indian astride a bucking horse. In 1942, he founded his own art school.

A Frank E. Schoonover Catalogue Raisonne is being compiled by the Frank E. Schoonover Fund. Publication is scheduled for November 2008.

Sources include:
Walt Reed, The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Note submitted February 2005 from Larry Hacker.

"I was researching some Colt factory letters, papers and books for a magazine article I am writing on a rare 1927 Colt revolver when I ran across the following written by the artist Frank E. Schoonover, in 1926:"

'The material for the picture was gathered from actual experience on ranches in Colorado and Montana. The painting is built up around the character of the man "Tex" and his horse "Patches." Patches was probably the best and the most unpretentious cayuse in the cow country. He was ewe-necked and raw-boned but almost human when it was necessary to find a trail or get to camp on a black night. Tex and Patches just naturally made pictures when they were together and it was always pretty fine to see them up on some little buttehorse and rider outlined against the sky. Tex would pull his foot out of the stirrup, turn a bit in the saddle, and look all about the country just as you see him doing in the painting." ..... "Tex favored the "Frontier" Colt revolver.'

"Tex and Patches", is a 19 1/2 X 34" Colt poster featuring the Schoonover painting and was distributed gratis by Colt from 1926 to 1941. It is among the more collectable of Colt memorabilia.

Biography from American Illustrators Gallery
Biography photo for Frank Schoonover
Frank Earle Schoonover was born in Oxford, New Jersey. His father worked in an iron foundry, and the family was not long on culture. He applied to Howard Pyle's first classes at Drexel and was joyous upon being admitted, stating "I felt honored because his class was a pretty strong one-made up of big shots…Jessie Willcox Smith, Maxfield Parrish, Thornton and Violet Oakley, and others."

In 1896, he entered Pyle's classes at Drexel Institute to study illustration rather than the ministry, which his parents had most coveted as his pursuit in life. As a student of Howard Pyle, Frank Schoonover became an ardent adherent of his teacher's tough belief that an artist should "live what he paints". After his second year of study, Pyle accepted him into the Chadds Ford summer school on scholarship and by 1899, he was illustrating books such as, A Jersey Boy of the Revolution and In the Hands of the Red Coats.

A few years later, he was illustrating outdoor adventure stories, his fondest desire; In the Open by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews was the first of a long list of such works. With inspiration from Pyle, in 1903, Schoonover began repeated travel to the Hudson Bay area to experience that environment for use in his illustration works.

Schoonover's journeys to the Canada and Alaska were more remarkable, when one realizes that in 1903 the artist traveled some 1,200 miles, entirely by snowshoe, canoe and dog sled. Over the years, a great number of his illustrations were based on those daunting excursions, which allowed him to accurately portray the living conditions of these recently settled remote frontiers.

He traveled out West and lived with the Blackfeet Indians, and his depictions of Eskimo's are as accurate as one can get. 'To Build A Fire' from Jack London's story of the same title, is a perfect example of such a painting. Like Jack London, Schoonover had learned in the wild, what it takes to survive.

Like Pyle and Wyeth, Schoonover's understanding of the rugged life made him a prime candidate for illustrating classic tales of adventure. Among them: Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, and Ivanhoe. He also illustrated "the world's most successful author," Zane Grey's serials and novels including Open Range, Avalanche, Rustlers of Silver Ridge, Rogue River Feud, and Valley of Wild Horses.

He illustrated more than two hundred classic books, and with classmate Gayle Hoskins organized the Wilmington Sketch Club in 1925, and formed his own art school in 1942, teaching until he was ninety-one years old.

His earliest commissions came through Howard Pyle and at least once they shared a commission with another fellow Pyle student, Philip R. Goodwin. In 1900, he did a cover for the Saturday Evening Post, with many cover and interior illustration commissions subsequent commissions coming his way for American Girl, Century, Collier's Weekly, Girl Scouts Magazine, Harper's, McCall's Magazine, McClure's Magazine, Everybody's Magazine, Frank Leslie's Monthly, Outing Magazine, Progressive Farmer, Redbook, Sunday Magazine, and Scribner's Magazine.

In 1905, author Clarence Edward Mulford developed a character with one short leg and called him Hopalong Cassidy or 'Hoppy' to his ardent fans. Frank Schoonover found a real life model for the character during his travels and painted that cowboy with a short leg, immortalizing him in the process.

Schoonover and Pyle's studios in Wilmington were nearby each other for Pyle sometimes hired Schoonover to assist him with a few commissions. Schoonover befriended fellow student, Stanley Arthurs, and in 1906, they traveled to Jamaica with Howard Pyle. That same year Schoonover rented a studio and his neighbors turned out to be more Pyle students; N.C. Wyeth, Henry Jarvis Peck, and Harvey Dunn.

"Schoonover Red" became a signature element in many of Frank's paintings. He was enamored of the color red and in each of his illustrations he tried, wherever possible, to put in a dash of cadmium red, varnished it more heavily than elsewhere to heighten its intensity and to make it a characteristic symbol of his paintings. It was his attempt at developing a 'signature' for marketing his art better.

Frank Schoonover helped to organize what is now the Delaware Museum of Art and was chairman of the fundraising committee charged with acquiring works by Howard Pyle. In his later years he restored paintings including some by Pyle and turned to easel paintings of the Brandywine and Delaware landscapes. He also gave art lessons, established a small art school, designed stain glass windows, and dabbled in science fiction art (illustrating Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars), he was known locally as the "Dean of Delaware Artists."

Frank Schoonover died at 94, leaving behind more than two thousand illustrations.

©2004 National Museum of American Illustration,

Biography from Altermann Galleries & Auctioneers VI
Like N.C. Wyeth and W.H.D Koerner, Frank Schoonover was a famed illustrator of the West and a student of Howard Pyle. Unlike the other two, however, Schoonover experienced the wilderness early in life and felt a very special attraction to it. "Woods, streams, bridges, nature, the wilderness—they are all in my work," Schoonover later wrote, "and the people I painted are rugged as their environment."

Schoonover was born in New Jersey, and in 1896 entered art classes at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia where he came under the tutelage of Howard Pyle. Within three years the young artist moved to Wilmington, Delaware to work with Pyle on a regular basis. In the winter of 1903, Schoonover traveled to northern Quebec and Ontario and crossed the upper part of Hudson's Bay by dogsled with two Indian guides. He made numerous notes and sketches which were used in his first story with illustrations, titled "the Edge of the Wilderness," which appeared as a serial that year. In 1905, the artist traveled to Colorado and Montana where he sketched and photographed enough raw material for his western illustrations to use throughout the remainder of his life. In 1914, Schoonover purchased land for a studio in Bushkill, Pike County, Pennsylvania, and settle there permanently.

"Technical training is necessary, but it must be subordinated to the imagination," Schoonover wrote. "Good illustrations are storied pictures, and they tell some phases of the story better than do words. They must convey the same thought and action as do the stories. They must be convincing, fitting in detail, embodying the same power of imagination, the same humor, romance, and action." Schoonover's definition holds true, and it should be added that the strength of the imagination on the part of Pyle and his students is what carried much of their work into the realm of art. Like many of his counterparts, Schoonover's view of the West was fictionalized, in keeping with the development of popular beliefs about he West during the 1920's and 1930's.

ReSources include: The American West: Legendary Artists of the Frontier, Dr. Rick Stewart, Hawthorne Publishing Company, 1986

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About  Frank Schoonover

Born:  1877 - Oxford, New Jersey
Died:   1972 - Trenton, New Jersey
Known for:  illustration-Indians and mountain men