Jessie Willcox Smith printsJessie Willcox Smith was an American illustrator whose impressive volume of work includes more than 60 books and almost 200 covers for Good Housekeeping.

Born in Philadelphia in 1863, Jessie didn’t discover her talent until the age of 16.  After attending the School of  Design for Women and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia she worked for the Ladies’ Home Journal for 5 years.  Frustrated by her education so far, Jessie left the job to study under Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute in 1894.

After leaving Drexel, Jessie rented a studio with two fellow students of Pyle, Violet Oakley and Elizabeth Shippen Green.  14 years later she was working steadily and had enough financial security to have her own house and studio built.  The property was surrounded by gardens that her young models would play in while she observed, waiting for the perfect subject to draw. Working in natural light and with her models playing freely around her the results are the wonderfully warm and charming illustrations below.

Remaining unmarried, Jessie Willcox Smith seems to have sacrificed motherhood for her career but her life was certainly not childless. Her drawings show the love and passion she had for children. In later years Jessie chose portrait work and kept her subjects’ attention with fairy tales. In her own words…

“It has been one long joyous road along which troop delightful children, happy children, sad children, thoughtful children, and above all wondering, imaginative children, who give to their charmingly original thoughts a delicious quaintness of expression. I love to paint them all.”

She died in 1935 aged 71.

'The Seven Ages of Childhood' (1909)

The Seven Ages of Childhood – 1909

Jessie Willcox Smith prints

First the infant in It’s Mother’s Arms

Jessie Willcox Smith prints

Then the Epicure, with fine and greedy taste for porridge

Jessie Willcox Smith prints

Then the Scholar, with eyes severe and hair of formal cut

'The Seven Ages of Childhood' (1909)

At the Back of the North Wind – 1919

Jessie Willcox Smith prints

“Dear boy!” said his mother; “your father’s the best man in the world.”

Jessie Willcox Smith prints

“Are you ill, dear North Wind?”

Jessie Willcox Smith prints

So Diamond sat down again and took the baby in his lap

'At the Back of the North Wind' (1919)

The Princess and the Goblin – 1920

Jessie Willcox Smith prints

She ran for some distance, turned several times, and then began to be afraid

Jessie Willcox Smith prints

There sat his mother by the fire, and in her arms lay the princess fast asleep

Jessie Willcox Smith prints

“Come,” and she still held out her arms

Please take a look at my Jessie Willcox Smith cards, postcards and posters – just click on the poster below – thanks for visiting  :-)

Jessie Willcox Smith prints


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    7 Responses to Jessie Willcox Smith – A Celebration of Childhood

    • Connie Squire says:

      how wonderful to find these images here. Thanks for posting such treasures!

    • Vickie H. says:

      Her work is AMAZING!!!! She captures the essence of pure innocence in these images! I love the little red-haired girl eating porridge! I wonder if copies of these prints are available for sale anywhere…I would love to own this one….thank you for sharing!

      • jen says:

        Hello Vickie – I absolutely agree. Prints are available – if you click on any of the illustrations to go to my shop or search using the box at the top for other artists. Thanks for visiting :-)

    • santavega says:

      Hello, I have a red hard cover book of Robert Louis Stevenson, “A Child’s Garden Of Verses”, with illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith. This esition was publish by Avenel Books in New York and arrange with Charles Scribner’s Sons and printed in the USA.
      I have enjoy reading over and over this beautiful illastrated book of poems. To me it’s a work of art. All the illustrations are in black and white:~)

    • Donna Landers says:

      I love the prints of Jessie Willcox Smith and there is one particular print that I saw about 10 years ago that I want. When I saw the print, I had no idea who the print was by and lady that owned it did not want to sell. Now 10 years later I have found out that it is the work of Jessie Willcox Smith. It is the print of two little girls sitting at a table praying over a bowl of soup/porridge. The table has a blue and white checked tablecloth on it and you can see the steam coming up from the bowl In the background there is a shelf with blue and white plates on it. Do you happen to have the print for sale or know where I can get it?

      • jen says:

        Hello and sorry for the delay, you got lost in my spam :( The illustration sounds like a combination of the Campbell’s Soup Ad and ‘Children Saying Grace’. The latter is in my shop but it sounds more like the advert – if you Google it there are a couple of colour versions for sale. Do let me know and thanks for visiting :-)

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