Archive for October 1, 2012

Artist of the moment….Jessie Willcox Smith….


Jessie Willcox Smith was probably the most well known female illustrator of the so called Golden Age of Illustration featuring the likes of Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth. She was very popular for her illustrations for the popular magazine Ladies Home Journal.

A short clip featuring art work of Jessie Willcox Smith set to the music of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, my favorite winter holiday song.


The artist was born in 1863 in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jessie Willcox Smith attended college at the School of Design for Women now known as the Moore College of Art and Design. Smith also attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she was able to learn from Thomas Eakins. Less than one year after finishing college in 1888 she was employed by the Ladies Home Journal. The artist also studied with famed illustrator Howard Pyle.


The artist was able to produce great commercial art at a very prolific level and was employed by such nationally known companies as Century, Collier’s, Leslie’s Weekly, and Harpers. The artist also worked for Good Housekeeping, painting magazine covers for sixteen years starting in 1917.


Illustrated the Harry Potter of its times, the Water-Babies, a tale for young children that was written and published  in the early 1860s in England. On her death bed she gave the Library of Congress the original sketches she used for the book.


Jessie Willcox Smith passed away in 1935 at the age of 71.


One of only ten women inducted in the Hall of Fame of the Society of Illustrators.


Willcox Smith worked in many mediums including charcoal, oils, posters, watercolor, and pencils.


High price range:  The artist has garnered  as much as $386,500 for a charcoal work.  Oil painting high is $127,000.


Low price range:  Oil price range starts at $12,000. Posters can be found for less than one hundred dollars.


I enjoy this artist as she reminds me of the drawings and paintings I saw as a young boy by my grandmother. She did a wonderful job at illustrating children and the sweeping and flowing movement of clothing.  In our present day society of media media every where its hard to imagine a time when people just read things with no pictures, the mind was left to imagine what something looked like. An example of this would be the encyclopedia. While at grandmother’s house last winter I grabbed a 1960 or so edition. I was able to find many definitions however very few books included illustrations.  I believe the art world doesn’t give enough recognition to those illustrators such as Willcox Smith, Howard Pyle, or N.C. Wyeth  who brought fantasy worlds to life for millions of little boys and girls!





Artist of the moment…….James Denmark….

The artist is similar to other artists of the period working with collage and sometimes with the figure. When dealing with the figure a concious theme is to stress the outline and shape of the body.  Romare Bearden and Ernest Crichlow are two artists who immediately come to mind when checking out the artwork of James Denmark.

James Denmark was born in 1936 in Winter Haven, Florida. He was one among many artists in his family. Like many of her peers, his grandmother excelled at quilting and needlework. Grandfather was a bricklayer with a unique sense of design and style.

Denmark attended the Pratt School of Design in New York. At this time the Abstract Expressionist movement was in full power in its birth place America, Denmark became a huge fan of Jackson Pollack, Clifford Still, and Willem De Kooning.

He has worked in such mediums of posters, gouache,  watercolor, woodcuts, etchings, bronze, and collage over his long artistic career.

Low price range:  Works in pencil and posters can be had for a few hundred dollars.

High price range: An original painting that was UNTITLED sold at auction for $24,000.

Other websites have works by the artist but I found this to have the widest selection of prints and originals:

Not much info on the artist. Another African American artist that is often overlooked. Unlike the Highway Painters I wrote about last week, Denmark doesn’t seem to have had a very prolific output over his many years. I hope that over time people come to appreciate the high level of design and his wonderful use of color in his collages.  Wonderful color in his floral paintings and collages as well.

Think about trying a collage today!