Gertrude Kay (1884-1939), illustrator and landscape painter, grew up in Alliance, Ohio, where her father was a prosperous hardware merchant.
She studied illustration at the Philadelphia Museum School of Design and with Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia.
Along with other women students of Howard Pyle including Sarah Stilwell Weber, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Alice Barber Stephens, and Katherine Pyle, Gertrude Alice Kay found success in the male-dominated world of commercial illustration.
She produced covers and story illustrations for Ladies' Home Journal and other magazines from around 1908 through the 1920s. During this time she illustrated children's books as well.
She began to travel extensively in 1921, first to China and Japan, and later to Ireland, England, and Italy. Accompanied on her travels by her school-teacher sister and mother, Kay studied Far Eastern and European cultures and filled sketchbooks with local color.
Her popularity as an illustrator increased with her foreign travels as she demonstrated her ability to accurately portray family life and, in particular, children.
In the late 1920s, she wrote and illustrated articles for the Ladies' Home Journal called “Adventures in Geography,” mainly detailed accounts of journeys to distant lands.
She painted in the American Southwest and produced colorful illustrations of Native American and Hispanic children.
Throughout her career, her use of rich colors and strong compositions fit well with her subject matter. Always a keen landscape watercolorist, she exhibited at the Art Institute in Chicago, the Plastic Club in Philadelphia, and the New York Watercolor Club.
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