Jessie Willcox Smith:
Painter of Children

Portrait Jessie Willcox Smith, 1902

The Illustrators:

Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935), American artist and illustrator, was called a “painter of children” by periodicals of the early 1900s.

She became one of the highest-paid women illustraors of all time.

It was said of the ideal children that populated her illustrations, “they are clean, they are pretty, they don't look noisy, they are unusually rosy and wholesome, yet not too chubby to be graceful; they are a bit old-fashioned, both in their manners and their comfortable clothing, and it is easy to see that they are only sufficiently naughty to be entertaining.”

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Smith attended the School of Design for Women and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

After graduation in 1888 she worked in the advertising and production department of the Ladies' Home Journal magazine. After five years she left to study under Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute.

With her illustrator companions Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley, she established a studio near Philadelphia and began a prolific and lengthy career.

Jessie Willcox Smith created magazine covers, posters, calendars, and portraits, and produced hundreds of story illustrations for books and magazines. Although she had no children of her own, children became the focus of her art. She became famous for her sensitive and much loved portrayal of small children in family settings.

With her eyesight declining in the early 1930s, she retired from active painting and died in 1935.

Among her best known works are her many magazine covers for Good Housekeeping Magazine in the 1920s and 1930s and her illustrated books, among them, A Child's Garden of Verses (1905), Mother Goose (1914), The Water Babies (1916), and Boys and Girls of Bookland (1923).

Many examples of her work can be found today on-line at various Websites.

Good Housekeeping Cover, 1922

Good Housekeeping Cover, 1922

Good Housekeeping cover illustration, 1922

Good Housekeeping Cover, 1924 Good Housekeeping, 1919

McClure's Magazine, 1904 Good Housekeeping, 1920

Scribners, 1904 Home Sketches, Scribners, 1904

McClure's Magazine, 1903

McClure's Magazine story art, 1904

Story illustration, The Blue Dress, Scribners, 1902

Good Housekeeping cover art, 1928

See the Children Illustration Gallery for more artwork by Jessie Willcox Smith.

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