Organizations* : SI
For more than half a century, the illustrations and paintings of Harold Von Schmidt were familiar to the American public. His work appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Sunset, Cosmopolitan, American and other such magazines for twenty years, beginning in 1925.
Born in 1893 in Alameda, California, Von Schmidt was orphaned at five. He was raised by his grandfather, a forty-niner, and his aunt, both of whom encouraged his interest in art. As a young man, he spent his summers working as a lumberjack, cowpuncher and construction worker.
After two years of study with F.H. Meyers at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Von Schmidt did his first cover design in 1913 for Sunset magazine. While attending the San Francisco Art Institute in California from 1915 to 1918, he became art director at the Foster and Klein advertising agency. Von Schmidt also painted for the Navy in World War I, as well as illustrating Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop.
Von Schmidt was a member of the United States rugby team in the 1920 Olympics. That same year, he and fellow artists Maynard Dixon, Roi Partridge, Judson Starr and Fred Ludekens set up their own advertising agency. Four years later, Von Schmidt went east to study at the Grand Central Art School in New York City with Harvey Dunn, a former student of Howard Pyle.
During World War II, Von Schmidt was an artist-correspondent for King Features Syndicate and the Air Force. In 1960, he was commissioned to design the Pony Express commemorative stamp for the United States Postal Service. Although primarily an illustrator, Von Schmidt continued to produce non-commercial work as well as illustrations. He did twelve paintings of the Gold Rush for the California Governor’s offices, and five Civil War paintings for the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Von Schmidt was also a founder of the famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut, as well as a member of the Artists Guild, the Author’s League of America, and the Society of Illustrators. His work can be found at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.