Anna Whelan Betts

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Anna Whelan Betts
Born(1873-05-15)May 15, 1873
DiedFebruary 6, 1959(1959-02-06) (aged 85)
EducationPennsylvania Academy
Drexel Institute
Known forIllustration
Illustration titled "Christmas Callers" which appeared in the December 1904 issue of Century Magazine.

Anna Whelan Betts (May 15, 1873 – February 6, 1959) was an American illustrator and art teacher who was noted for her paintings of Victorian women in romantic settings. Betts is considered one of the primary artists of the golden age of American illustration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[1] Art historian Walt Reed described Betts' work as "characterized by its great beauty and sensitivity."[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Betts was born on May 15, 1873[3] in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the oldest of three children of the physician Thomas Betts and Alice Whelan.[4][5] Her sister, Ethel Franklin Betts, would also become an artist. Betts studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy in Philadelphia with Robert Vonnoh. After graduating, she moved to Paris where she was tutored by the French painter Gustave-Claude-Etienne Courtois.


Upon returning to the United States, she studied illustration under Howard Pyle, who was teaching the first classes in illustration art at Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) in Philadelphia. He later founded the Howard Pyle School of Art in Wilmington, Delaware. Betts's first published illustration was for Collier's magazine in 1899. Her work later appeared in many of the popular magazines of the early 1900s including Century Magazine, Harper's, The Ladies’ Home Journal, and St. Nicholas Magazine. Her earliest book illustrations appeared while she was still a Howard Pyle student. For example, Betts illustrated Sarah Orne Jewett's 1899 publication of Betty Leicester’s Christmas published by Houghton Mifflin Company. And in 1900 she was one of the community of illustrators chosen to provide illustrations for The Complete Writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne in 22 volumes by Houghton, Mifflin Company. Betts created the illustrations for volume 1. Betts was honored as a fellow at the Pennsylvania Academy and won several medals including a bronze medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915) in San Francisco.[6]

After her eyesight began failing in 1925, Betts was advised to retire from illustration. She joined the faculty of the small private boys' school, Solebury School, where she worked as an administrator, hostess and art teacher.[2]

Later life and death[edit]

In 1944, Betts retired from teaching and moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania, to live with her sister Ethel. Betts died at their home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 6, 1959[3] and was buried at the Solebury Friends Cemetery in Solebury, Pennsylvania.[7]


  1. ^ Wagner, Margaret E., Maxfield Parrish and the Illustrators of the Golden Age, Pomegranate Communications (March 31, 2000), 128pp, ISBN 0-7649-1257-7
  2. ^ a b Reed, Walt (2001). The illustrator in America, 1860-2000. New York, N.Y.: Society of Illustrators. p. 9. ISBN 978-0823025237.
  3. ^ a b "Anna W. Betts". Death Certificate. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health Vital Statistics. pp. File No. 16575 Reg No. 2873. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  4. ^ United States Federal Census, 1900, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Ward 22, District 477, Sheet 4B
  5. ^ List of United States Citizens, Passenger list of SS Majestic, Port of New York, September 5, 1928, p80
  6. ^ Berry, Rose Virginia Stewart The dream city : its art in story and symbolism, W. N. Brunt, San Francisco, p327(c1915)
  7. ^ Oppie, Lillie (December 14, 2005). "Anna W. Betts". Find A Grave Memorial. Retrieved 10 December 2014.

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