Society of Illustrators Profile: Jessie Willcox Smith
Born in Philadelphia in 1863, Jessie Willcox Smith love of children motivated her to become a kindergarten teacher, who fortunately for us at the age of seventeen was invited to to act as a chaperone while her cousin gave art lessons to a young male professor. From this encounter, Smith quickly discovered she enjoyed drawing more than teaching, so she enrolled in Mrs. Sarah Peter's School of Design for Women. She also attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Art studying under Thomas Eakins, but found the atmosphere to dour and began to illustrate her first professional work for the May 1888 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine. Heavily influenced by one of her teachers from her brief time with the Drexel Institute, Howard Pyle's force, spirit and overall view of illustration was how she wanted to create her pictures thereafter. With a keen eye for detail and her innate feelings about children, helped Smith portray young ones in their most favorable light in the artist's beautifully idealized compositions. Executed in mixed media with her delicate use of color, the illustrations appeared in all the popular magazines of the day including, Collier's, Good Housekeeping, Scribner's, Century, and Woman's Home Companion. Jessie's many illustrations for children's books have become classics including her "Alice in Wonderland" and "Little Red Riding Hood" as she did private portrait commissions to augment her substantial income as one of the country's most popular artists of her time.