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Frank Holme, Employed Artist and Illustrator

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 27th, 2014

Born in 1868, Frank Holme grew up in the small West Virginia town of Keyser, Mineral County, in the 1870s.  From this inauspicious beginning he became one of the most successful newspaper artists of his era, achieving success as an illustrator just before the advent of newspaper photography.

After working in the art department of the Wheeling Register in the early 1880s, he gained employment at the Pittsburgh Press.  One of his assignments included the Johnstown Flood of 1889.

Portrait of Frank Holme

Frank Holme in his Pittsburgh days, ca. 1889.

In the 1890s Holme spent most of his career working for the Chicago Blade, Chicago Times, and the Chicago Daily News.  Achieving critical recognition, he was featured in an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1897 with three other newspaper artists, including John T. McCutcheon and William Schmedtgen.  The exhibit featured several drawings that Holme had made at the infamous trial of Adolph Luetgert, who was found guilty of murdering his wife.

Illustration by Holme for the Chicago Daily News coverage of the Luetgert trial, 1897, from the companion website of Robert Loerzel’s book Alchemy of Bones.

In 1898 Holme founded the Chicago School of Illustration.  Its faculty included the noted typographer F.W. Goudy.  Notable students include artist Bertha Lum who studied illustration with Holme, and who was influenced by Japanese art; and typographers Oswald Bruce Cooper and William A. Dwiggins.

A page from Training of an Illustrator by Frank Holme, 1899.

Suffering from tuberculosis, Holme moves to Asheville, North Carolina in 1901, and then to Phoenix, Arizona in 1903.  When unable to attend an exhibit in Chicago of works by his friends, the exhibit was brought to him.  They made replicas of their work, and William Randolph Hearst both chartered a Pullman train to bring them to Arizona, and held a reception in the local opera house where Holme could view the art.  He died July 28, 1904, age 36.

Although the majority of his remaining artwork appears to be at the University of Arizona, the West Virginia and Regional History Center possesses some of his original correspondence, photographs, and illustrations, as well as rare pamphlets and biographical research papers compiled by Vause Marshall of West Virginia, in A&M collections 1167 and 1178.

Illustration by Frank Holme.

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

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