Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr
3809 Laguna Ave
Palo Alto,
CA 94306-2629

Frank Craig - signature Craig art in #s 4 & 5 of

He's also in #s 3 & 5 of
Black and White ImageS

Frank Craig could easily get lost in the host of "society" illustrators that cropped up at the turn of the century in the wake of Charles Dana Gibson. His work is virtually unknown outside of a small cadre of illustration aficionados and I'm willing to wager that not many of you reading this page are familiar with him. I hope this changes that imbalance a little. Once you look at his work you realize how unique and special he was.

Frank Craig - ScribnersBorn in in England in 1874, he studied at the Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. In January of 1900 he was working in the American Scribner's magazine providing some of the illustrations for a biography of Cromwell. One sample is at left. Not bad for a 25 year old.

He worked on staff at The Graphic, an important British weekly news magazine, and submitted to the Royal Academy and the Paris salons. He had paintings purchased by both England and France and won a gold medal for portraiture at one of the early 20th century Paris Salons. He also worked for Nash's Magazine. The fragments of data I've been able to acquire (most with the help of Fred Taraba and Ann Marshall of Illustration House - thanks, folks) indicate that he was well-respected for his color work. I've only been able to turn up the one two-color sample below and one other later in the page.

He continued to work in the U.S. and I've found his work in McClures Magazine from 1902-1904, Harpers from 1907 to 1914, and Scribner's again from 1904 on and off through 1914. He was also much in demand as a book illustrator and his work accompanied some of the era's most famous authors: Rudyard Kipling, R.W. Chambers, F. Marion Crawford, Arnold Bennett, Maurice Hewlett, to name a few. Some examples:

Frank Craig - The Apple Tree Cottage
The Apple Tree Cottage by Elinor Macartney Lane 1909
Frank Craig - Rest Harrow
Rest Harrow by Maurice Hewlett 1910
Frank Craig - Rewards & Fairies
Rewards & Fairies by Rudyard Kipling 1910
 Frank Craig - Max
Max by Katherine Cecil Thurston 1910
Frank Craig - Stradella
Stradella by F. Marion Crawford 1909
Frank Craig - Athalie
Athalie by Robert W. Chambers 1915

Both of his Chambers titles, Athalie and The Girl Philippa (1917) were profusely illustrated (30 & 32 plates, respectively) and represent some of his finest work.

Craig was very much the portrait painter and many of his compositions are derived from that experience. Still, his lighting and staging are superb and the images occasionally approach a photo-realism that was uncommon in his day. I'm often struck by thoughts of Abbey when viewing some of his work, as witness the image below. This was an illustration for a poem in Scribner's for April of 1914.

Frank Craig - Scribners 1914

This color image below is from Harpers, December 1914. Again Craig brings Abbey to mind. I can't think of a higher compliment and I just wish there was more of his color work to be found.

Frank Craig - Harpers 1914

Craig battled with ill-health most of his life and was forced to leave London for Surrey and then, in 1916, he went to Portugal. In April of 1918, he had a successful gallery show in Lisbon, featuring about thirty of his paintings. It was a timely tribute, because a few weeks later, he died. He was 44.


To learn more about Frank Craig, see:

200 Years of American Illustration Henry C. Pitz, Random House 1977
The Vadeboncoeur Collection of Knowledge Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. 1998
The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS 4, 5, B&W ImageS 3, 5 Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. 2002, 2003, 2006, 2010, JVJ Publishing

Illustrations are copyright by their respective owners.
This page written, designed & © 1999 by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Updated 2011.

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