Ethel Reed

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Ethel Reed
Ethel Reed (ca. 1895) by Frances Benjamin Johnston.jpg
A photograph of Ethel Reed by Frances Benjamin Johnston (ca. 1895)
Born(1874-03-13)March 13, 1874
Died1912(1912-00-00) (aged 37–38)
StyleGraphic arts

Ethel Reed (March 13, 1874 – 1912) was an internationally recognized American graphic artist.[1][2] In the 1890s, her works received critical acclaim in America and Europe. In 2016 they were on exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

Early life and career[edit]

Ethel Reed was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on March 13, 1874, she was the daughter of a local photographer and an Irish American mother[3]and the daughter of Edgar Eugene Reed.[4] Her father died when she was an adolescent, and Ethel and her mother consequently suffered hardship. After they moved to Boston in 1890, she studied briefly at the Cowles Art School in 1893, and after 1894 began to receive public notice for her illustrations. Reed's youthful beauty and cleverness caught the attention of a Newburyport artist Laura Hills, who became a mentor.[5] During her time in Boston, she achieved national fame as a poster artist while still in her early twenties. She did many series of posters and book illustrations during a span of less than two years.[6] In the mid-1890s she was engaged to fellow artist Philip Leslie Hale, whose father Edward Everett Hale was a prominent Bostonian. However, the engagement was broken off. In 1896, she traveled Europe with her mother. In 1897 they settled in London where Reed worked as an illustrator, in particular for the Yellow Book, a quarterly literary periodical, which was co-founded by Aubrey Beardsley. She had two children with different lovers.[7]

She was acquainted with important literary and artistic figures of her day: the writer Richard le Gallienne, the architects Bertram Goodhue and Ralph Adams Cram, the photographer Fred Holland Day. Ethel Reed was the model for Day's photographs Chloe and The Gainsborough Hat. She also modeled at least three times for portraits by Frances Benjamin Johnston.[8]

In her short career, Ethel Reed achieved recognition as one of the preeminent illustrator artists of her time and remains one of the most mysterious figures of American graphic design.[9][10][11][12][6]

Later life and death[edit]

She later turned to drugs and alcohol after years of disappointment.[7] Her circumstances in England are difficult to trace, and certain records of her final years have yet to surface.[13] However, according to recent research, she died in her sleep in 1912.[2] Her biographer has asserted that alcoholism and the use of sleeping medications contributed to her death.[14]

Works illustrated[edit]

Book cover by Ethel Reed
  • Boston Sunday Herald (1895)[15]
  • Boston Illustrated (1895)[16]
  • Lily Lewis Rood, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes: A Sketch (Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1895)[17]
  • Albert Morris Bagby, Miss Träumerei: A Weimar Idyl (Boston: Lamson, Wolffe & Co., 1895)[18]
  • Gertrude Smith, The Arabella and Araminta Stories (Boston: Copeland & Day, 1895)[19]
  • Julia Ward Howe, Is Polite Society Polite? (Boston: Lamson, Wolffe & Co., 1895)[20]
  • Charles Knowles Bolton, The Love Story of Ursula Wolcott (Boston: Lamson, Wolffe, & Co., 1896)
  • Mabel Fuller Blodgett, Fairy Tales (Boston: Lamson, Wolffe, & Co., 1896)
  • Louise Chandler Moulton, In Childhood's Country (Boston: Copeland & Day, 1896)[21]
  • Time and the Hour, (1896)[22]
  • Richard Le Gallienne, The Quest of the Golden Girl: A Romance (London: John Lane, 1897)[23]
  • The Yellow Book, Volumes XII (January, 1897) and XIII (April, 1897)
  • Agnes Lee, The Round Rabbit and Other Child Verse (Boston: Copeland & Day, 1898).
  • The Sketch, Volume 21 (6 April 1898)


  1. ^ "Ethel Reed, The Beautiful Poster Lady Who Disappeared". New England Historical Society. 2018.
  2. ^ a b Peterson, William S. The Beautiful Poster Lady: A Life of Ethel Reed. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2013.
  3. ^ Reed, Ethel. "Ethel Reed | Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya".
  4. ^ "Poster Girl".
  5. ^ A Chat with Ethel Reed. The Bookman: A Literary Journal, Volume II, Number 4 (December, 1895), pp. 287–291.
  6. ^ a b "Ethel Reed and the poster craze".
  7. ^ a b Reed, Ethel. "Ethel Reed | GD 203". Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  8. ^ Hirshler, Erica E., Janet L. Comey, and Ellen E. Roberts. A Studio of Her Own: Women Artists in Boston, 1870–1940. Boston: MFA Publications, 2001.
  9. ^ "Ethel Reed".
  10. ^ Hills, Patricia. Turn-of-the-Century America: Paintings, Graphics, Photographs, 1890–1910. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1977.
  11. ^ Keay, Carolyn. American Posters of the Turn of the Century. London: Academy Editions, 1975.
  12. ^ Kiehl, David W., and Phillip Dennis Cate. American Art Posters of the 1890s: In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Including the Leonard A. Lauder Collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, 1987.
  13. ^ McAllister, Jim. Local artist's life still shrouded in mystery. The Salem News, March 1, 2010.
  14. ^ "Vanished in the Fog," transcript of a talk by William S. Peterson at the Library of Congress, 5/30/2013. [1]
  15. ^ "Ethel Reed | The Boston Herald: Fashion Supplement, March 24 | The Met". The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  16. ^ Reed, Ethel. "The Best Guide to Boston". Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  17. ^ "Pierre Puvis de Chavannes: A Sketch".
  18. ^ Boucher, Marie-Christine (2003). "Puvis de Chavannes, Pierre(-Cécile)". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  19. ^ Reed, Ethel. "Arabella and Araminta Stories".
  20. ^ Reed, Ethel. "Is Polite Society Polite?". Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  21. ^ Reed, Ethel. "In Childhood's Country". Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  22. ^ Reed, Ethel. "Time and the Hour". Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  23. ^ Reed, Ethel (2002). "The Quest of the Golden Girl". Retrieved 23 December 2019.

External links[edit]