The Creation of the Frank E. Schoonover Catalogue Raisonné
Louise Smith, one of the authors of Frank E. Schoonover Catalogue Raisonné describes how she and her brother John Schoonover, along with the help of friend LeeAnn Dean, were able to assemble an entire catalogue of Schoonover’s work from his earliest sketches to his last easel paintings.
An epiphany followed by ten years of research, hard work, and unparalleled experiences. The result? Frank E. Schoonover Catalogue Raisonné.
Circa 1995, my brother John Schoonover began urging me to retire from the field of education and spearhead a project dedicated to our grandfather, Frank E. Schoonover. We knew that he was a favorite student of Howard Pyle, as well as a prolific artist, a beloved teacher, and a significant illustrator during the golden age of illustration. We had no idea, however, about the magnitude of the project we contemplated. Together with my youngest brother, Cortlandt, and our spouses, we met and decided to embark on the journey to produce a book that would document each of his paintings and tell his story, or in other words, compile a catalogue raisonné. So, in 1999, I retired from teaching and determined the organizational pieces needed.
In order to garner necessary support, we formed the non-profit Frank E. Schoonover Fund, Inc., and rented an office in Wilmington near the location of the Schoonover Studios that are still open to the public. Fortunately, grandfather had left an invaluable legacy, his original daybooks. They comprised of two sets of journals that contained his handwritten record of most of his works, numbered from the first illustration that he sold in 1899, NO 1, to his final works in the late 1960s, NO 2510. The organization and information detailed in his daybooks provided the framework for the book.
In spite of the fact that a catalogue raisonné is often the result of a doctoral thesis, we marched undaunted into unknown territory, determined to provide the most complete picture of his work as possible, with the assistance of Lee Ann Dean and several dedicated volunteers. Questions quickly arose…Where were all the paintings? How would we find them? Who would photograph them? Where would we have to go to do the original research? How should the volumes of information be managed? Where would we get the manpower? How long would it take? Gradually, the questions were answered and the resulting work was a great adventure taking us from Maine to California and many states in between, visiting schools, museums and homes, often with our professional photographer in tow.
When we’d completed most of the research and found and photographed hundreds of paintings, we understood the mammoth scope of the book—over 3,000 images with text for each, as well as other sections including a biography, indices, and various pertinent lists. At this point it was time to secure a designer and a publisher. We needed someone who understood the scope of Schoonover’s importance and influence and would insist on a beautiful product. Since Grandfather had lived and worked in Wilmington, we turned locally to Bob Fleck and the Oak Knoll Press. We were thrilled, when he too, caught the vision and agreed to be our publisher. His editors Mark Parker Miller and later Laura Williams guided us through the long, at times arduous, process. The two-volume boxed set was finally published in 2009 and has surpassed our expectations. Ten years were well spent. We have heard from many that it is a welcome addition to personal, educational, and public libraries. More importantly, it is our gift to our grandfather and to the field of art history.
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