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
First the infant in It’s Mother’s Arms
Then the Epicure, with fine and greedy taste for porridge
Then the Scholar, with eyes severe and hair of formal cut
At the Back of the North Wind – 1919
“Dear boy!” said his mother; “your father’s the best man in the world.”
“Are you ill, dear North Wind?”
So Diamond sat down again and took the baby in his lap
The Princess and the Goblin – 1920
She ran for some distance, turned several times, and then began to be afraid
There sat his mother by the fire, and in her arms lay the princess fast asleep
“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 :-)