Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Jessie Willcox Smith was born September 6, 1863.  
She was one of the most celebrated and best-known illustrators of her time.

But what was almost more remarkable was that her career flourished during a time when society heavily restricted women---or at least did its best to heavily restrict women---in all aspects of their lives, both personal and professional.
Howard Pyle's students on a picnic

Smith studied for a time with the great illustrator Howard Pyle. Again, remarkably---Pyle's classes were nearly 50% women, unheard of during those times. Not only that, but many of Pyle's students---and Smith classmates---went on to become great in their own careers: Frank Schoonover, Elenore Abbott, Ethel Franklin Betts, Anna Whelan Betts, N. C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn, Violet Oakley, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Arther E. Becher, and more. Pyle's women students eventually left his studio, and several of them founded their own studios and groups. 

Smith made illustrations for children's books, but also for many magazines, as well as miscellaneous projects. This illustration is from a calendar for Bryn Mawr College---another frontier in those days for women's rights.

I hope you'll read further about this illustrator: a gifted artist, and a person who challenged society's artificial limitations---and succeeded.


  1. OOOOOH, I SO love her illustrations! I bet this last one is from The Water Babies, one of Tom's and my favorite books! Now you're going to have to feature all those other illustrators you mention, who were Pyle's students...

    1. Yes, the last image was indeed from The Water Babies. And posts on other artists from Pyle's attelier will make for an interesting series---though I will be focusing on those who illustrated what we today consider children's books. Many of Pyle's students later illustrated for strictly adult material---magazines, adult novels, and advertising.