Jessie Wilcox Smith became one of the most commercially successful and highest paid illustrators of her time despite the many challenges she faced as a woman artist. Smith, along with her friends and colleagues Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley became known as ‘The Red Rose Girls,’ named after the Villanova Inn where the collective lived. Paintings from Smith and Green will be available in our upcoming American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists sale on Sunday December 4.
Drawing was an uncommon profession for women, considered unladylike. However, using their raw talent and wit, 'The Red Rose Girls' became successful by targeting a more accepted artistic pursuit: children’s books and family-oriented illustration. The works they created can be likened to Mary Cassett, for their intimate and expressive depictions of children. The paintings for sale are all outstanding examples of the genre with “Seated Girl Reading a Book,” and “Easter Morning” by Smith as well as “New Kodak” by Green depicting the subtle moods and body language of children engaged in beloved childhood activities.
A Philadelphia native, Jessie Wilcox Smith was born in Mount Airy. She attended the School of Design for Women (now the Moore College of Art & Design) and then the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where she studied under renowned American artist Thomas Eakins, from 1885 to 1888. Smith’s first published illustration appeared in the St. Nicholas Magazine while she was still a student at the Academy. She was then accepted to the inaugural illustration class at Drexel University taught by Edward Pyle. In this class she met Green and Oakley, and formed ‘The Red Rose Girls.’ Smith quickly gained fame as a gifted illustrator and within a few years received commissions from many prominent magazines. Smith became the exclusive illustrator for every cover of Good Housekeeping from December 1917 until April 1933, becoming the artist with the longest run of illustrated magazine covers.
Most Americans have come across Smith’s work at one point in their life, either in the Fine Art setting, or more commonly as a child, reading one of the many books she illustrated. Over the course of her career, Smith illustrated more than sixty books, most popular of which include editions of Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tiny Tim and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Smith’s artwork has had a lasting impact, influencing the American culture of nurseries, family rooms and playgrounds. As a prominent player in the Golden Age of Illustration, her work continues to inspire and be sought after by collectors.
To be offered 12/04/16: Jessie Wilcox Smith - Lot 53 "Girl Reading a Book;" Lot 52 "The Goblins Fell Back a Little When He Began, and Mad Horrible Grimaces All Through the Rhyme"