Jessie Willcox Smith
|Jessie Willcox Smith|
Jessie Willcox Smith in 1917
September 6, 1863|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||May 3, 1935
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Movement||The Golden Age of Illustration|
Jessie Willcox Smith (September 6, 1863 – May 3, 1935) was one of the most prominent female illustrators in the United States during The Golden Age of American Illustration. Smith was a prolific contributor to books and magazines during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, illustrating stories and articles for clients such as Century, Collier's Weekly, Leslie's Weekly, Harper's, McClure's, Scribners, and the Ladies' Home Journal.
Jessie Willcox Smith was born in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Charles Henry Smith, an investment broker, and Katherine DeWitt Willcox Smith. Smith grew up privileged, attending private elementary schools, and at the age of sixteen was sent to Cincinnati, Ohio, to finish her education. Smith had originally trained to become a teacher, securing a position teaching kindergarten in 1883, but found that her body could not cope with the strenuous activity that surrounded working with children. After being persuaded to join her cousin in art classes, Smith then realized she had a talent for drawing and quit her teaching job to pursue a degree in art.
In 1884 Smith attended the School of Design for Women (which is now Moore College of Art & Design) and later studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins in Philadelphia. It was studying under Eakins that Smith began to utilize photography as a resource in her illustrations, and he became one of her first major influences throughout her work.
After graduating the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1888, Smith began searching for steady employment in her field. Smith joined Ladies Home Journal in 1888 in the advertising department as a means to support herself. The job itself was entry-level and consisted of Smith finishing rough sketches, designing borders, and preparing advertising art for the magazine.
It was during this time at the magazine that Smith realized she needed more experience in her craft. She enrolled in classes at Drexel University with Howard Pyle in 1894. Pyle, founder of the Brandywine School, pushed many artists of Smith's generation to fight for their right to illustrate for the major publishing houses of the time and worked especially close with many artists who he himself saw as "gifted." Smith herself stated in a speech she gave about Pyle, complied in the 1923 work "Report of the Private View of Exhibition of the Works of Howard Pyle at the Art Alliance", that working with Pyle swept away "all the cobwebs and confusions that so beset the path of the art-student."
During her time under Pyle at Drexel, Smith encountered two women in which she would share talent, mutual interests, and lifelong friendships, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Violet Oakley, who were under the instruction of Pyle as well. They began a lifelong friendship, naming themselves "The Red Rose Girls" after the Red Rose Inn, where they lived and worked together for four years. When they lost the property they quickly found a new place to live and named it "Cogslea", after each of their initials. It was here that Smith began to hit her stride as an illustrator.
As educational opportunities were made more available in the 19th-century, women artists became part of professional enterprises, including founding their own art associations. Artwork made by women was considered to be inferior, and to help overcome that stereotype women became "increasingly vocal and confident" in promoting women's work, and thus became part of the emerging image of the educated, modern and freer "New Woman". Artists the, "played crucial roles in representing the New Woman, both by drawing images of the icon and exemplyfying this emerging type through their own lives." In the late 19th-century and early 20th century about 88% of the subscribers of 11,000 magazines and periodicals were women. As women entered the artist community, publishers hired women to create illustrations that depict the world through a woman's perspective. Other successful illustrators were Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, Rose O'Neill, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Violet Oakley.
During Smith's time at the Red Rose Inn and Cogslea her career skyrocketed. Within a year her work was featured in four magazines, two books, a calendar and advertisements for Ivory soap. Her work was a hit with advertisers and quickly had work for Quakers and Kodak within the year. Over the next few years her career began to rise dramatically, winning awards and opening her own studio in 1913.
In 1915 Smith finished one of her most known works, Charles Kingsley's "The Water-Babies". During that time she also signed a contract with Good Housekeeping in which she would produce the monthly covers for the magazine for however long she wanted the position. She worked for them for over fifteen years, making Smith one of the highest paid illustrators of the time, earning over $1,500 per cover.
During the 1920s, Smith's illustrations took a back seat and she began to focus on more portrait painting. Edith Emerson, of the Art Alliance of Philadelphia, described Smith's portrait style as "well mannered, clean, and graceful and a generous dash of common sense gives it its savor and freshness." Her main group of clientele were those in power and the wealthy. Smith had a knack for painting children, often easing them with milk and cookies and fairy tales to get them to relax and focus. In her October, 1917 Good Housekeeping article she said that " A child will always look directly at anyone who is telling a story; so while I paint I tell tales marvelous to hear."
Death and legacy
Never a travel enthusiast, Smith finally agreed to tour Europe in 1933 with her roommate's, Henrietta Cozens, niece and a nurse. The trip proved to be much more strenuous than relaxing. Her failing health, difficultly walking and seeing, greatly took a toll on her and her condition worsened upon her return home. She died in her sleep two years later in 1935 at age seventy-one in her home at Cogslea.
The Hall of Fame of the Society of Illustrators has inducted only 10 women since its inception in 1958. Smith was the second to be inducted in 1991 after Lorraine Fox. Of those ten, three of them were The Red Rose Girls, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley. The women's homes were arguably the finest assembly of illustrative talent ever in American life. Smith's papers are deposited in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. On Smith's death, she bequeathed the original works to the Library of Congress' "Cabinet of American Illustration" collection. A thirteenth illustration remains in a private collection.
Throughout the years Smith's style changed drastically. In the beginning over her career she used dark lined borders to delineate brightly colored objects and people. In her later works she softened the lines and colors until they almost disappeared. Smith worked in mixed media- oil, pastels, charcoal-whatever gave her the desired effect. She often overlaid oils on charcoal on paper whose grain or texture added an important element to the work. This use of color lends to an impressionist tone to her work, an influence of the French impressionist painters.
Most of Smith's work is primarily concerned with children and motherly love. Many reviewers say Smith was incessantly trying to recreate the love she desperatley needed as a child. Smith preferred to use real children as opposed to child actors because they didn't have the same soul or will to explore as a normal child would. Instead, she would invite her friends over and watch their children play and use that as inspiration for her artwork.
- New and True [Poems] – Mary Wiley Staver (Lee & Shepard, 1892)
- Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1897)
- The Young Puritans in Captivity – Mary Prudence Wells Smith (Little, Brown & Co, 1899)
- An Old-Fashioned Girl – Louisa May Alcott (1902)
- The Book of The Child [Short Stories] – Mabel Humphrey (Stokes, 1903)
- Rhymes of Real Children – Betty Sage (Duffield, 1903)
- In The Closed Room – Frances Hodgson Burnett (Hodder, 1904)
- A Child's Garden of Verses – Robert Louis Stevenson (Scribner US/Longmans Green UK, 1905)
- The Bed-Time Book – Helen Hay Whitney (Duffield US/Chatto UK, 1907)
- Dream Blocks – Aileen Cleveland Higgins (Duffield US/Chatto UK, 1908)
- The Seven Ages of Childhood – Carolyn Wells (Moffat & Yard, 1909)
- A Child’s Book of Old Verses – Various Poets (Duffield, 1910)
- The Five Senses – Angela M. Keyes (1911)
- The Now-a-Days Fairy Book – Anna Alice Chapin (1911)
- A Child’s Book of Stories – Penrhyn W. Coussens (1911)
- Dicken’s Children – Charles Dickens (Scribner, 1912)
- Twas The Night Before Christmas – Clement C. Moore (1912)
- The Jessie Wilcox Smith Mother Goose (1914)
- Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (Little, Brown & Co, 1915)
- When Christmas Comes Around – Priscilla Underwood (Duffield, 1915)
- Swift’s Premium Calendar (1916)
- The Water Babies – Charles Kingsley (Dodd, Mead & Co, 1916)
- The Way to Wonderland – Mary Stewart (Dodd, Mead & Co, 1917)
- Good Housekeeping August 1917 – first cover for the magazine
- At The Back of The North Wind – George MacDonald (McKay, 1919)
- The Princess and The Goblin – George MacDonald (McKay, 1920)
- Heidi – Johanna Spyri (McKay, 1922)
- Boys and Girls of Bookland – Nora Archibald Smith (Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1923)
- A Very Little Child’s Book of Stories – Ada M. & Eleanor L. Skinner (1923)
- A Child’s Book of Country Stories – Ada M. & Eleanor L. Skinner (Duffield, 1925)
- Adapted from Jessie Willcox Smith: American Illustrator – Edward D. Nudelman (Pelican, 1990)
Little Red Riding Hood illustration
A Child's Garden of Verses illustration, 1905
The Land of Counterpane illustration
Cover of Heidi, 1922
- Hamburger, pp. 385+
- Jessie Wilcox Smith. Ortakles.com
- Library of Congress 1999 exhibition of "The Water-Babies" www.loc.gov.
- Nudelman, 1990.
- Laura R. Prieto. At Home in the Studio: The Professionalization of Women Artists in America. Harvard University Press; 2001. ISBN 978-0-674-00486-3. pp. 145–146.
- Laura R. Prieto. At Home in the Studio: The Professionalization of Women Artists in America. Harvard University Press; 2001. ISBN 978-0-674-00486-3. p. 160–161.
- "Jessie Wilcox Smith", Good Housekeeping
- Serenity Stitchworks.
- Twas the Night before Christmas, Jessie Willcox Smith illustration. Gutenberg.org.
- Hamburger, Susan. "Jessie Wilcox Smith". In American Book and Magazine Illustrators to 1920. Steven Escar Smith; Catherine A. Hastedt; Donald H. Dyal. American Book and Magazine Illustrators to 1920. Gale Research International, Limited; 1998. ISBN 978-0-7876-1843-8. p. 385+.
- Nudelman, Edward D. Jesse Willcox Smith: American Illustrator. Gretna, LA, Pelican Publishing, 1990.
- Serenity Stitchworks "Jessie Willcox Smith", 2013
- "Jessie Willcox Smith," In Good Housekeeping, October 1917
- Freeman, Ruth S. Jessie Willcox Smith: Jessie Willcox Smith: Children's Great Illustrator. Watkins Glen: Century House, Inc.
- Gedeon, Joanne A. "Jessie Willcox Smith", Pennsylvania Center for the Book. The Pennsylvania State University. Spring 2010
- Goodman, Helen, "Women Illustrators of the Golden Age of American Illustration", Woman's Art Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Spring - Summer, 1987), pp. 13–22
- Nudelman, Edward D. "Jessie Willcox Smith: A Bibliography." Gretna, LA, Pelican Publishing, 1989.
- Nudelman, Edward D., ed. The Jesse Willcox Smith Mother Goose: A Careful and Full Selection of the Rhymes. Gretna, LA, Pelican Publishing, 1991.
- Reed, Rodger T. "Jessie Willcox Smith". Illustration House.
- Schnessel, S. Michael "Jessie Willcox Smith Hardcover". London: Studio Vista, 1977.
- Susina, Jan. "Dream Children" The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991
- Vadeboncoeur, Jim, Jr. "Jessie Willcox Smith", JVJ Publishing Illustrators, 1999.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jessie Willcox Smith.|
- Jessie Willcox Smith's Fairy Tale illustrations. SurLaLune Fairy Tales.
- Jessie Willcox Smith at Find a Grave