Frank Schoonover

1877 - 1972

Gratz Gallery Outside

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.

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.