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. She is most notable for her work in magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and for work as an illustrator for many children's books.
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 life-long friendships, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Violet Oakley, who were under the instruction of Pyle as well.
Later Career & Public Prominence
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. Smith may be most well known for her covers on Good Housekeeping, which she painted from December 1917 through March 1933. She also painted posters and portraits for various companies. Her twelve illustrations for Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies (1916) are also well known. 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.
The Hall of Fame of the Society of Illustrators has inducted only 10 women since its inception in 1958. Smith was the second after Lorraine Fox. Of those ten, three of them occupied the same house, Cogslea, as the Red Rose Girls. Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley were fellow Howard Pyle students who shared that space, which was 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.
- 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 Willcox 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)
Illustration from The Water-Babies, c. 1916. Charcoal, water, and oil. Digitally restored.
Illustration from A Child's Garden of Verses, 1905
Cover of Heidi, 1922
- Hamburger, Susan "American Book and Magazine Illustrators to 1920." Ed. Steven E. Smith, Catherine A. Hastedt, and Donald H. Dyal. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 188. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998.
- Nudelman, Edward D. Jesse Willcox Smith: American Illustrator. Gretna, LA, Pelican Publishing, 1990.
- Nudelman, Edward D., ed. The Jesse Willcox Smith Mother Goose: A Careful and Full Selection of the Rhymes. Gretna, LA, Pelican Publishing, 1991.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jessie Willcox Smith.|
- Jessie Willcox Smith's Biography
- Jessie Willcox Smith Biography
- Jessie Willcox Smith
- Library of Congress 1999 exhibition of "The Water-Babies"
- Children's Book Illustrators Gallery - Large Archive of Jessie Wilcox Smith's First edition illustrations
- SurLaLune Fairy Tales: Jessie Willcox Smith's Fairy Tale illustrations
- Twas the Night before Christmas, Jessie Willcox Smith illustration
- National Museum of American Illustration
- Jessie Willcox Smith at Find a Grave