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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’s literature. Jessie Willcox Smith hewed closely to this path as seen in her drawing for The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, which demonstrates her gift for imagining a child’s experience. Her colleagues Mary Hallock Foote, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Jessie Gillespie primarily created works for mainstream magazines, which showed women outside the traditional domestic sphere exploring commerce, fashion, their own interests and talents, and in scenes including men. Foote, best known for her observations and portrayal of life in the American West, depicts a couple on a frontier veranda. Green’s composition, as suggested by her title, visually celebrates the personal and professional bonds between herself, Violet Oakley, and Jessie Willcox Smith, forged by living and working together in an arrangement unusual for the time. A decade later, Jessie Gillespie explores novel trends in fashion in Panta=loons with characters sporting various types of trousers or pantaloons. Collectively, these drawings give a window into a range of traditional and unusual subjects treated by female illustrators during a high point of the art form.

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