Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Frank E. Schoonover

The Brandywine School was a style of illustration — as well as an artists colony in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, near Brandywine Creek — both founded by artist Howard Pyle (1853–1911) at the end of the 19th century. The works produced there were widely published in adventure novels, magazines and romances in the early 20th Century. Pyle was mentor to such successful artists as N. C. Wyeth, Frank E. Schoonover, Stanley M. Arthurs, W.J. Aylward, Thornton Oakley, Violet Oakley, Clifford Ashley, Anna Whelan Betts, Ethel Franklin Betts and Harvey Dunn.

Golden Age Comic Book Stories
All images from chetvergvecher.livejournal

From childhood, Frank Schoonover was drawn to the outdoors and opportunities to explore the wonder of nature. As he put it, “I don’t know what I was looking for but I loved the water and the streams.” It’s no wonder then, that as his passion for both the outdoors and art grew, he began creating pen and ink drawings of streams, bridges, buildings, and barns. It wasn’t long before he realized that illustration was his true passion. This excerpt from Frank E. Schoonover Catalogue Raisonné by John Schoonover, Louise Schoonover Smith, and LeeAnn Dean describes Schoonover’s first experiences studying art under the famous Howard Pyle.
In early September, 1896, an advertisement in the Philadelphia Inquirer forever changed his course. Listed in the newspaper was the fall offering of classes at Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry in Philadelphia. He scoured the ad and “…it said that anyone with a desire for illustration could have the instruction in that kind of art under the tutelage of Howard Pyle, that if the work in hand would pass the judgment of Howard Pyle. Well that was it.”
(An Excerpt from Frank E. Schoonover Catalogue Raisonné at

Schoonover (far left) with Drexel students

Pyle with favorites Stanley Arthurs (left) and Schoonover
Images from

He confronted his parents. “I really think that I’m not really material or fitted to be a Presbyterian minister. I think I’d like to go down and study with Mr. Pyle and be an illustrator. They didn’t seem to object very much to it.” With the goal of eventually studying under Pyle, a hopeful Schoonover submitted drawings for admission to Drexel to Clifford P. Grayson, director of the School of Drawing, Painting, and Modeling in the Department of Fine and Applied Art. He was accepted into that four-year program at a time when Philadelphia provided a compelling environment for artists, educators, and those interested in the arts. Significant among those in Philadelphia at the time was William Merritt Chase, who started teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1896. William Glackens had returned to the city, Cecelia Beaux critiqued Academy portrait classes, and Thomas Anshutz taught its antique classes. Sculptor Charles Grafly instructed at Drexel and the Academy, and Howard Pyle was a luminary at Drexel. “The training provided in these surroundings was grounded in sound academic curricula with an evolving specialization in illustration.” Concurrently, the swift development of photoengraving throughout the country during the nineteenth century’s last quarter favorably advanced American illustration as an art form.
(An Excerpt from Frank E. Schoonover Catalogue Raisonné at


Schoonover went on to win one of the ten prestigious scholarships to the Chadds Ford Summer classes in 1898 and 1899 where Pyle tutored the most advanced students. Under Pyle's encouragement he was soon illustrating books, many of the themes heavily influenced by his love of the outdoors. When Pyle left Drexel to build his own school, Schoonover went with him.
In 1903, Schoonover spent four months exploring the Hudson Bay and James Bay areas of Quebec and Ontario on foot and by dogsled. This experience turned out to be the inspiration for some of his best work throughout his career, including a series of illustrated stories for Scribner's Magazine in 1905.
From then on he never missed an opportunity to travel from the studio in his quest to absorb atmosphere and local colour: Virginia, Colorado, Montana, Louisiana, Jamaica, etc. Also in 1905 he had his first fiction published and became a member of the Society of Illustrators.
In 1906, he left Pyle's school to open his own studio in Wilmington, Delaware at 1305 Franklin Street and later at 1616 Rodney Street, which was to become home base for the rest of his life. He married Martha Culbertson of Philadelphia in 1911. From 1903 to 1913 he did illustrations for all the major magazines of the day (Harpers, Ladies' Home Journal, Scribner's, Century, McClures), and soon became recognized as one of the country's premier illustrators.
He continued his association with Pyle until the master's death in 1911 - together they worked on the Hudson County Courthouse Murals. Besides doing magazine illustration, Schoonover wrote articles and stories and illustrated more than two hundred classics and children's books. Throughout his career he illustrated the works of many famous authors: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack London, Rex Beach, Zane Grey, Robert W. Chambers, Gilbert Parker, Henry Van Dyke, Clarence Mulford, etc.

Locksley Shoots before Prince John

The above painting was given by donors Frank E. Schoonover and J. Thompson Brown on January 15, 1936. It was created as an illustration for the book "Ivanhoe" published in 1929. A series of Frank Schoonover's Ivanhoe paintings was loaned to the School on May 25, 1931, and then presented to the Episcopal Church School Foundation to be shown at the School as a gift from the donors. (
Frank Schoonover illustrated more than 150 classic books and hundreds of the great illustrated magazines of the day. More than five million readers every month saw his illustrations of the fiction of Jack London and Zane Grey. And he was the first to visualize the legendary western character Hopalong Cassidy. Dramatic reenactments shot in wilderness regions of Wyoming, the Canadian North and the Delaware River in eastern Pennsylvania are underscored with the music of Aaron Copeland Appalachian Spring to entertainingly recreate the subjects Frank Schoonover loved first - horses and dogsleds, buckskins and snowshoes, holsters and knives, prairie grass and ice.
Frank Schoonover’s creative vision transcended the pop culture mandates he and contemporaries such as Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth obliged. Schoonover’s moody monochromatic sketches of boys toiling in coal mines and girls laboring in textile mills are visionary social commentary that reinforces how art can be a catalyst of social change. Frank Schoonover’s rapture with life itself inspired his passion for authenticity, which envisioned both America’s wistful recollection of itself, and our relentless aspiration of a more perfect union.
Schoonover's subject matter included cowboys, Indians, and Canadian trappers. His forms were simple and well defined and his moods powerful. Later in his career, his style became less rigid and more impressionistic. He was also an accomplished watercolorist and muralist and an avid photographer. He used photographs as references for his illustrations to remind himself of the mood and character of the models. Besides doing magazine illustration, Schoonover wrote articles and stories and illustrated more than two hundred classics and children's books. He and Gayle Hoskins organized the Wilmington Sketch Club in 1925, and in 1931 lectured at the School of Illustration for the John Herron Art Institute of Indianapolis. In 1942 he began his own school in Wilmington, where he taught art classes until 1968, when he was ninety-one years of age. After a series of paralyzing strokes, which ended his artistic career in 1968, Schoonover died at the age of ninety-five in 1972.

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