Jessie Willcox Smith

Jessie Wilcox Smith was an American illustrator who specialized in illustrations in children’s books, poems, magazines and other print media. Born in Philadelphia, PA on September 6, 1863, Smith went to school to become a kindergarten teacher. After teaching for a year, she realized that she had an incredible talent for drawing. Around 1884, Jessie Wilcox Smith enrolled in the School of Design for Women in Philadelphia but it turned out to be more of a finishing school for women and less of an art school. She dropped out and enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where she studied under Eakins and learned to use photography as a method of drawing.

In 1887, while in her last year at the Academy, Smith published her first of many illustrations in the St. Nicolas Magazine. Upon graduation, she began working in the advertising department at The Ladies Home Journal in Philadelphia where she drew anything from gloves to soda. She continued under their employment for a period of time and began to get recognition for her drawings. In 1892, Smith published her first book of illustrations. Smith decided to enroll at Drexel Institute of Arts and Sciences in 1894 and there she learned to use more natural light and vibrant colors in her sketches.

In 1917, Smith illustrated the first cover of Good Housekeeping Magazine and will go on to illustrate over 200 covers for the magazine until 1933. She is known for her soft portrayal of children and motherly love in her illustrations and won many awards and medals to mark her achievements as an artist. At the time of her death at 72, Jessie Wilcox Smith illustrated over 60 books, including Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and published hundreds of illustrations for children’s books, poems, magazines and more.