November 21, 2017

The Golden Age of Illustration: The Red Rose Girls


The Golden Age of Illustration is a term applied to a time period (1880s - 1920s) of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustrations by artists in Europe and America. Advances in technology at the time allowed for accurate and inexpensive reproductions of their art, which allowed quality books to be available to the voracious public demand for new graphic art.

In America, illustration of this period was rooted in the Brandywine Valley Tradition begun by artist, Howard Pyle, and carried on by his students who included N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, and Edwin Austin...along with a special group of women known as The Red Rose Girls.
(1901) Violet Oakely, Jessie Willcox Smith,
Elizabeth Shippen Green, Henrietta Cozens

From 1906-1911, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, and Jessie Willcox Smith, rented the Red Rose Inn in Villanova, Pennsylvania, where they lived together and supported one another's artistic careers.

Their nickname, The Red Rose Girls was given to them by Howard Pyle, who taught the three artists in his first illustration class at Drexel Institute.

Green, Oakley, and Willcox became successful, prolific artists who helped establish Philadelphia as a national center for book and magazine illustration. Their unconventional life style at the time, of a group of young female artists living together, demonstrated that women could become successful professional artists and served as a model for later women.

Their style of Romantic realism still inspires me today...So cheers to The Red Rose Girls and all their amazing work!
(1901) Violet Oakely, Jessie Willcox Smith,
Elizabeth Shippen Green, Henrietta Cozens

Read more about them below:
Elizabeth Shippen Green

Elizabeth Shippen Green (September 1, 1871 - May 29, 1954) was an American illustrator who illustrated children's books and worked for publications such as The Ladies Home Journal, Harper's Magazine, and The Saturday Evening Post.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the majority of subscribers to magazines and periodicals were women, so as women entered the artist community, publishers hired them to depict the world through a woman's perspective. During this time, Green became a commercially successful artist who was part of the emerging image of the educated, modern and freer ideal of the "New Woman."

Her art, to me, is timeless and classic. Check it out below:
Illustration from Tiphaiine la Fée
Harper's Monthly Magazine April 1906
Elizabeth Shippen Green

Jehane – The Constant Lover
Harper's Monthly Magazine Sept.1907
Elizabeth Shippen Green

from The Navarrese
Harper's Monthly Magazine Sept.1907
Elizabeth Shippen Green

Masquerade
Elizabeth Shippen Green
Special thanks to our guest art editors:
Marcia Sherman
and Nancy Clark

Violet Oakley

Violet Oakley (June 10, 1874 - February 25, 1961) was an American artist who was the first American woman to receive a public mural commission. In a field that had been exclusive to men, Oakley's Rennaissance-revival style stood out in murals and stained glass designs that addressed themes from history and literature. She also had success as a popular illustrator for magazines including The Century Magazine, Collier's Weekly, and Woman's Home Companion.

Oakley was a member of Philadelphia's The Plastic Club, an organization established to promote "Art for art's sake." Other members included her friends, Jessie Willcox Smith, and Elizabeth Shippen Green, and the club provided a means to encourage one another professionally and create opportunities to sell their works of art.

Like the other Red Rose Girls, Oakley personified the ideal of the modern professional "New Woman" through her art and throughout her life.

Her art is truly lyrical and inspirational. Check it out below:
June
cover of Everybody’s Magazine 1902
Violet Oakley

The Encouragement of Reading
Violet Oakley

A Roadside Encounter
Violet Oakley

Study for portrait of Edith Emerson
Violet Oakley
Special thanks to our guest art editors:
Kiyomi A. Gaines
and Nancy Clark

Jessie Willcox Smith

Jessie Willcox Smith (September 6, 1863 - May 3, 1935) was an American illustrator and was known as "one of the greatest pure illustrators" of her time. Her art is in more than 60 books and she illustrated stories and articles for magazines such as Century, Collier's Harper's, and The Ladies' Home Journal. Her Mother Goose series of illustrations was a long-running feature in Good Housekeeping where she also created all the covers from December 1917 to 1933 (and became the artist with the longest run of illustrated magazine covers.)

Smith is also known for her illustrations for books such as Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others. Also, her illustrations and advertising posters of children and women appealed to the public, and she became popular as a "media star," like Norman Rockwell.

In 1991, Smith became the second woman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Society of Illustrators. Of the small group of women inducted, three were members of The Red Rose Girls: Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green (1994) and Violet Oakley (1996.)

Smith's art exemplifies pure beauty and heart to me. Check it out below:
from At the Back of the North Wind 1919
Jessie Willcox Smith


from The Water Babies 1916
Jessie Willcox Smith

from At the Back of the North Wind 1919
Jessie Willcox Smith

Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid
from The Water Babies 1916
Jessie Willcox Smith 
Special thanks to our guest art editors:
E.J. Hagadorn
and Ursula Barshi


Let us know your favorites in the Comments section below.

4 comments

  1. As I’ve mentioned in my comments to the L. Frank Baum entry in this grand issue, I love fairytales and any backstory available to them. This certainly includes biographies of the people behind the illustrations, which this article certainly provides.
    I’m quite familiar with the works of Wyeth and Rackham, so to learn about lesser known artists was a real treat for me. Each of the Red Rose Girls profiled here have produced such rich and fanciful art, and it was a real pleasure to learn their names and a bit about them, as well as seeing beautiful samples of their craft on display here. Gorgeous work that inspire my imagination as much as the stories they accompanied.
    This was a perfect combination of history and art. Wonderfully done!

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  2. I enjoyed learning more about these women! The first Smith image makes me think of Rosetti and the Pre-Raphaelites. Now I want to know about Henrietta Couzens. Who was she?

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    Replies
    1. I was thinking Pre-Raphaelites, too.

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  3. These are beautiful! And I'm inspired by their story of renting a house and living together - pursuing their work, their way. Thanks for sharing this!

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