Biggs Museum in Dover to Open Illustration Gallery

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artsbuzz

Big at the Biggs: Schoonover

The Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, one of the largest collectors of works by famed local illustrator Frank Schoonover, will soon open the Frank E. Schoonover Gallery of American Illustration. The museum joined with The Schoonover Fund, established in 1999 to support research for the Frank E. Schoonover Catalogue “Raisonné,” which pledged $12,500 in matching funds to generate more than $25,000 for the new gallery. The space will be on the third floor of the recently renovated museum, its walls painted cadium red as tribute to Schoonover's use of the color in many of his paintings. “The board of the fund extends many thanks to those who have given to make this possible,” says John Schoonover, grandson of the illustrator, who orchestrated the matching grant. “Visitors to the Biggs Museum and Frank E. Schoonover Gallery of American Illustration will enjoy significant Schoonover works and memorabilia for years to come.” The Schoonover gallery changes on a regular basis, so repeat visits are encouraged. Frank E. Schoonover (1877-1972) is recognized as one of America's foremost illustrators. The Biggs, realizing the importance of its Schoonover collection, decided it needed a gallery of its own. The Biggs houses more than 40 of Schoonover's works, including such renowned paintings as “Morgan's Point was at His Throat” (1935), “Masked Indian Dancer” (1935) and “Vidette in Pirogue” (1911). Since its establishment more than 20 years ago, the Biggs M has been an advocate of Schoonover's artistic legacy. Museum founder Sewell C. Biggs, enthusiastically purchased 28 of the illustrator's finest paintings and drawings. Many other works have been donated over the past 10 years. They span Schoonover's student days at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia to landscapes following his career as an illustrator. At Drexel Schoonover was accepted into Howard Pyle's class for aspiring illustrators. By early 1900, Schoonover moved to Wilmington, continuing his studies with Pyle at the mentor's studios on Franklin Street, launching his career with a commission of four illustrations in the book “A Jersey Boy in the Revolution.” His career spanned over 60 years and produced 2,200 illustrations for over 130 books and many of the popular magazines and periodicals of the day, such as Saturday Evening Post, Harpers, Scribners, Outing, American Boy Magazine, Ladies Home Journal and Colliers. After 1906, Schoonover’s still-extant studio at 1616 N. Rodney St. was the center of this creative activity. His canvases were filled with dramatic images of trappers, Indians, cowboys, pirates, breaker boys, coal miners and women in the Pennsylvania Silk Mills. Writers such as Jack London, Zane Grey, James Gilbert Parker, Henry Van Dyke and George Marsh relished the Schoonover illustrations in their books. As the 1930s closed, and having witnessed the twilight of his illustrative career, Schoonover focused his efforts on the landscape of his youth, especially Pike County, where he spent so many summers at the family Bushkill house, and he produced more than 300 landscapes of the Brandywine and Delaware River valleys. He painted actively until the late 1960s. By the time of his death in 1972, the Delaware Press had acknowledged him as The Dean of Delaware Artists. Subsequently, his son, Cortlandt, authored two books celebrating his contribution to the annals of American art and illustration: “The Edge of the Wilderness” in 1974 and “Frank E. Schoonover, Illustrator, North American Frontier” in 1976. For a full biography on Artist Frank E. Schoonover visit schoonoverrfund.org.

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