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!





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