Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 23:03
In a career spanning over six decades, American illustrator Frank Earle Schoonover produced more than twenty-five hundred pieces of work. This spring semester Skillman Library and Special Collections has showcased a remarkable selection of Schoonover’s work in the Simon Room.
On Wednesday, Skillman Library hosted two lectures dedicated to Schoonover and his mentor, Howard Pyle. The first lecture, a brown bag discussion on Frank Schoonover, was delivered by his granddaughter, Louise Schoonover Smith.
Born in 1877 in Oxford, New Jersey, Frank Schoonover began the creation of his art by painting scenes he was familiar with. Though his parents wished for him to be a Presbyterian minister, Schoonover chose instead to apply for a position in Howard Pyle’s art program at the Drexel University School of Art.
“My great-grandparents were not pleased with my grandfather’s decision at all; however, he was known to be a bit rebellious,” said Smith. As a child, Schoonover had always imitated Pyle’s style of artwork; so naturally, this opportunity to work under Pyle was irresistible to Schoonover.
During his time at Drexel, Schoonover became close to Pyle and the two men developed a close mentor-mentee relationship. In Wilmington, Delaware, Schoonover and Pyle had studios built in close proximity to one another so that they could critique each other’s work. Under Pyle’s watchful eye, Schoonover developed his own style of illustration, focusing on cowboys, Native Americans, Canadian trappers, and pirates.
When he was not working on these types of paintings, he also focused on other fields of interests—literary sciences, early science fiction, and investigative journalism through photography and paintings.
The second installment into the Schoonover exhibit showcased the life and work of Howard Pyle, his mentor. Professors Dr. Robert May and Jill May, a husband and wife team from Purdue University, presented Pyle’s work and gave a history of Pyle, his artwork, and his students whom he taught at Drexel University.
Recently, the Mays have co-authored Howard Pyle: Imagining an American School of Art, which they referenced often during their lecture. Howard Pyle was known to be a hardworking man who dedicated himself to his craft and his students.
One of Pyle’s greatest pieces of advice was that if one desired to paint, they should become familiar with the subject, even to the point of being part of it. The Mays related a story about Pyle and Schoonover embarking on a trip to the Canadian North to fully immerse themselves into their artwork. In Canada, the two illustrators lived in the harsh wilderness near the Hudson Bay and created art in the midst of treacherous conditions.
“Schoonover was so dedicated to his work that he created a little hut specifically designed to be a studio. Even when it was forty-five degrees below zero, Schoonover made sure to dedicate his time to illustrations,” said Jill May. The Schoonover exhibit will remain in the Simon Room in Skillman Library until June 9th.