On January 6, a Delaware native and his gorgeous painting by American illustrator Frank Schoonover were featured on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, which was filmed at Winterthur last year. The painting, originally published with the caption “At a Hail from the Boat He Went to the Rail,” is an illustration from the 1923 book Privateers of ’76, a tale of Massachusetts boy Stephen Claghorn and his adventures at sea during the American Revolution. The painting pictures the moment toward the end of the story when Claghorn, alone and adrift aboard a derelict ship, is rescued, improbably, by his Salem schoolmaster. The Delaware Art Museum is thrilled to announce that it will display the painting in its American illustration gallery for the next six months.
The owner’s family purchased the painting directly from the artist for $300 in June 1960. During the Antiques Roadshow segment, the owner described his father’s love of illustrated books, and how his mother saved for two years to purchase a work from Schoonover’s Rodney Street studio in Wilmington.
When the owner was told on air that his beloved family painting was worth approximately $125,000, he teared up and said: “My father would be so thrilled to know that people were being turned on to illustrations, and my mother would be really thrilled with what you just said.”
John Schoonover, grandson of the artist and proprietor of Schoonover Studios, agreed: “I was very pleased to see my grandfather’s illustration on Antiques Roadshow, and glad [Roadshow expert and art dealer] Debra Force acknowledged the increasing interest in American book and magazine illustration.”
The Museum has a robust collection of illustrations by Frank Schoonover (1877-1972). Schoonover, a prominent artist of the Brandywine School, studied with Howard Pyle in the late 1800s, even receiving a coveted scholarship to study with him in Chadds Ford, PA, in the summer of 1899. He later moved from his native Philadelphia to Wilmington to set up his studio, where he also conducted classes.
Schoonover was renowned for his illustrations of stories featuring pirates, cowboys, historical heroes, and other romantic adventurers. He produced covers and illustrations for classics of young people’s literature, notably Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, Heidi, Hans Brinker, and Swiss Family Robinson. Schoonover also produced images of coal miners and other laborers, especially in industrial northeastern Pennsylvania.
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 60 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.
In addition to this loaned painting, the Museum currently has seven Schoonover illustrations on view.
About the Delaware Art Museum
For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.
Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media