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A.B. Frost: The Greatest Illustrator of Sports in America

By Thomas Eakins - [1], Public Domain, Link

Capturing the appearance and characteristics of rural and small-town American types drawn in grotesque, finely finished, or sketchy styles, the American illustrator, graphic artist and comics writer, Arthur Burdett Frost, is celebrated as the most loved member of the school of American sporting artists that appeared towards the end of the nineteenth century.

Famous for his drawings of hunting, fishing, golf, and archery, Frost was born on January 17, 1851, in Philadelphia. At the age of 15, he began an apprenticeship with a local business that taught him techniques in engraving and lithography. Largely self-taught, he took some formal training while attending night classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with Thomas Eakins. Afterwards, he traveled to Massachusetts to study with marine painter Gilbert Tucker Margeson. And finally, he studied in Shinnecock Hills School of Arts, New York, under William Merritt Chase.

In 1874, Frost made his artistic debut with the publication of “Out of the Hurly Burly”, written by Max Adler. In 1876, he joined the art department of Harper & Brothers and a year later he went to London to study drawing. There he illustrated Lewis Carroll’s “Rhyme? and Reason?”, which was published in 1883. He also contributed illustrations to Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s Monthly, and Collier’s magazines.

Later in his career, Frost honed his ability to replicate scenes from real life in a pictorial realism. As such, his convincingly intimate renderings of rural life and authentic details of sport became another part of his legacy by the end of his long career.

Frost was a member of the Tile Club of New York, which was established for the promotion of the arts and crafts movement through the inspiration and creation of tiles. He was also involved in the Philadelphia Sketch Club, Society of Independent Artists, and the Society of Illustrators. His work was exhibited at the Tile Club, Chicago World’s Fair, Columbian Exhibition, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine arts.

“Stuff and Nonsense” (1884), “The Bull Calf and Other Tales” (1892), and “Carlo” (1913) are the three books published by the artist. Each one houses a collection of comedic graphic stories, made up of sequential images. His “Book of Drawings” was published in 1904.

A notable collection of Frost’s work can be found at The Library of Congress, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, George Eastman House, University of California, Rice University and The Carnegie Arts of the United States Collection. A collection of prints by the artist are housed in the Norman Rockwell Museum archive, and a significant online collection of his works can be found on the Morristown Library website.

At the age of 77, A.B. Frost died on June 22, 1928.


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