Skip to main content

Exhibition Drawn to Purpose

Golden Age of Illustration

During the Golden Age of American Illustration (ca.1880–1930) a growing number of  women pursued fine arts training and found work as illustrators, primarily for children. Jessie Willcox Smith hewed closely to this tradition as seen in her drawing for The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, which demonstrates her gift for envisioning a child's experience of being simultaneously frightened and awed. Her colleagues Mary Hallock Foote, Alice Barber Stephens, and Elizabeth Shippen Green primarily created illustrations for mainstream magazines that included depictions of women pursuing interests and talents of their own and adult characters in stories sometimes set in the past or unusual locations. Foote's drawing of a young woman walking alone in an arid western landscape mirrors the artist's own unusual experience as an illustrator who worked most of her life in the American West, often in isolated places. Green forged new pathways for her peers by illustrating stories that included "masculine" subjects. Stephens created award-winning drawings for such literary classics as The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Collectively, these drawings show an impressive range of subjects skillfully and sensitively depicted by female artists during a high point in the art of illustration.

 Back to top