Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jessie Wilcox Smith

Jessie Willcox Smith was born in Philadelphia in 1863. She was a kindergarten teacher before accidentally discovering her artistic talent. She was probably around 20 before she started drawing. She soon enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and was a student of Thomas Eakins, and others. Her earliest work appeared in the monthly magazine for children, St. Nicholas. She also worked in the production department of The Ladies' Home Journal in 1889 and was still working there five years later when Howard Pyle began teaching illustration at Drexel Institute of Arts and Sciences, and she joined his first class. At age 31, she was only 10 years younger than her teacher and one of his oldest students. She formed a lifelong friendship with two other students, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley. The three shared a home/studio for almost 15 years, including a lease on a property called The Red Rose Inn, just outside Philadelphia. Smith was hugely successful in the emerging illustration market – it was the advent of mass-produced periodicals, many with a focus on home and children: The Ladies' Home Journal, Century, Collier's Weekly, Leslie's, Harper's, McClure's, Scribners, and, most famously, Good Housekeeping, which was one of America’s most popular magazines. Her illustrations graced the covers month after month from 1917 through 1933.

She also illustrated many famous books: A Child's Garden of Verses (1905); A Child's Book of Stories (1911); The Water-Babies (1916); At the Back of the North Wind (1919); and Boys and Girls of Bookland (1923), and an edition of Heidi, among others.
In 1933, her eyesight fading, she decided to retire from illustrating and try traveling. Jessie Willcox Smith died in her sleep in 1935.
Special thanks to, which has a lot of wonderful information on many famous and well-loved illustrators.

Laughing Elephant publishes (and we carry!) her illustrations on greeting cards. We also sell eight of her illustrations in 8 x 10 prints, that are also available framed.

No comments: