Ethel Reed

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A photograph of Ethel Reed by Frances Benjamin Johnston (ca. 1895)

Ethel Reed (March 13, 1874 – 1912) was an internationally recognized American graphic artist.[1] 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.

Life and career[edit]

Ethel Reed was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on March 13, 1874, daughter of Edgar Eugene Reed. Her father died when she was an adolescent and Ethel and her mother went through hardships. After they moved to Boston in 1890, she studied briefly at the Cowles Art School in Boston in 1893, and after 1894 began to receive public notice for her illustrations.[2] 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 sailed to Europe with her mother, and traveled there. 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. Her later circumstances in England are difficult to trace, and certain records of her final years have yet to surface.[3] However, according to recent research, she died in her sleep in 1912.[1] Her biographer has asserted that alcoholism and the use of sleeping medications contributed to her death.[4]

In her short career, Ethel Reed achieved recognition one of the pre-eminent illustrator and poster artists of her period.[5][6][7] She was acquainted with many important literary and artistic figures of her day, such as the writer Richard le Gallienne, the architects Bertram Goodhue and Ralph Adams Cram, and 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]

Works illustrated[edit]

Book cover by Ethel Reed
  • Boston Sunday Herald (1895)
  • Boston Illustrated (1895)
  • Lily Lewis Rood, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes: A Sketch (Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1895)
  • Albert Morris Bagby, Miss Träumerei: A Weimar Idyl (Boston: Lamson, Wolffe & Co., 1895)
  • Gertrude Smith, The Arabella and Araminta Stories (Boston: Copeland & Day, 1895)
  • Julia Ward Howe, Is Polite Society Polite? (Boston: Lamson, Wolffe & Co., 1895)
  • 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)
  • Time and the Hour, (1896)
  • Richard Le Gallienne, The Quest of the Golden Girl: A Romance (London: John Lane, 1897)
  • 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. ^ a b Peterson, William S. The Beautiful Poster Lady: A Life of Ethel Reed. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2013.
  2. ^ A Chat with Ethel Reed. The Bookman: A Literary Journal, Volume II, Number 4 (December, 1895), pp. 287–291.
  3. ^ McAllister, Jim. Local artist's life still shrouded in mystery. The Salem News, March 1, 2010.
  4. ^ "Vanished in the Fog," transcript of a talk by William S. Peterson at the Library of Congress, 5/30/2013. [1]
  5. ^ Hills, Patricia. Turn-of-the-Century America: Paintings, Graphics, Photographs, 1890–1910. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1977.
  6. ^ Keay, Carolyn. American Posters of the Turn of the Century. London: Academy Editions, 1975.
  7. ^ 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.
  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.

External links[edit]