Biography: Frank Earle Schoonover (1877-1972) was born in Oxford NJ. He began his art studies at Drexel Institute (Philadelphia) in 1896.There he studied with Howard Pyle, whose work he had copied from magazines for many years. During the summers of 1898 and 1899, Schoonover received one of ten annual scholarships to Pyle's summer school of Chadds Ford, PA. In 1899, Schoonover moved to Wilmington and a year later set up his own studio there; in 1906, he established his permanent studio at 1616 Rodney Street, where he also conducted classes.
In 1903, Schoonover traveled by snowshoes and dogsled in the Hudson Bay and James Bay area of Quebec and Ontario, where he created sketches and took photographs of the North American frontier. This was the first of many such trips to explore and record places that appeared in his mature work. In 1905, he lived with the Blackfeet people in Montana; that year, he also traveled to Europe.
Besides Canada, New Orleans and Cuba were among Schoonover's other destinations on assignments. He became well-known for his illustrations of stories featuring pirates, cowboys, historical heroes, and other romantic adventurers. He produced covers and illustrations for many classics of young people’s literature, notably Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, Heidi, Hans Brinker, and Swiss Family Robinson. His fourteen paintings Souvenir Pictures of the Great War appeared in The Ladies’ Home Journal. They were based on photographs and articles in newspapers, especially the New York Times. One commentator noted that the illustrations were particularly compelling given that they were not eyewitness accounts. Schoonover also produced images of coal miners and other laborers, especially in industrial northeastern Pennsylvania.
Schoonover spent his summers near Bushkill, Pennsylvania, one of his favored landscape painting sites. He completed over three hundred landscapes of the Delaware and Brandywine river valleys primarily after the mid-1930s, as well as designs for a series of stained glass windows for Immanuel Church in Wilmington.
Schoonover was one of the founders of the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts (the predecessor of the Delaware Art Museum) and remained closely involved with the Museum and its teaching studios throughout his life. At his death in Wilmington in 1972, after a career of over sixty years, he had produced about 2,200 illustrations for over 130 books and numerous magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s Magazine, Scribner’s Magazine, Outing, American Boy, The Ladies’ Home Journal, and Collier’s.
A Small School of Art: The Students of Howard Pyle, edited by Rowland Elzea and Elizabeth H. Hawks. Delaware Art Museum (1980), p. 170.