99 44/100% Adorable: Girls in Vintage Soap Ads, Pt. 1 (Ivory Soap)

There is no shortage of vintage advertisements with adorable little girls in them, but those old soap ads seem to be particularly charming. And it so happens that there are tons of them from the major soap brands like Sunlight, Packer’s, Fairy, and most prominently, Pears, easily found on the web. We’ll get to all of these in upcoming posts, but today’s post is devoted exclusively to one of the biggest soap brands of all time, Ivory.

Ivory Soap was first manufactured by the J.B. Williams Company in 1840 under the name Ivorine, but this didn’t last long. The company soon sold its rights to the soap to Procter & Gamble, who eventually changed its name to Ivory. Ivory Soap is known for two famous slogans, “It Floats” and “99 44100% Pure.”  The latter was especially popular for years.  In the ’50s and ’60s their main slogan became “That Ivory Look”, which was associated with the smooth skin of infants and considered the ideal for women.

Most of the early ads were of course illustrated, often by some of the most notable names in the business. One of those was Irving Ramsey Wiles. While he later became a successful portraitist, his early career was largely devoted to magazine and ad illustration, such as the following two variants of the same piece:

Irving Ramsey Wiles – Baby’s Ivory Bath ad (1898)(1)

Irving Ramsey Wiles – Baby’s Ivory Bath ad (1898)(2)

Another major illustrator who did illustrations for Ivory Soap was the ever-prolific Jessie Willcox Smith.  Here are three from her all done right around the turn of the twentieth century.  Note: a full-color illustration by Smith also featured in an ad for one of Ivory’s major competitors, Pears.  It’s already been posted here once, but I will likely link to it again when I make the Pears post.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ivory Soap ad (1)(1902)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ivory Soap ad (2)(1902)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ivory Soap ad (3)

This next piece, although labeled as a Smith illustration when I found it, is not actually her work.  The artist’s name in the bottom left-hand corner, although difficult to make out, appears to be Albert Herter, which makes sense as Herter was definitely a contemporary of Smith and is known to have been a prolific illustrator in his own right.  And although all of the advertising info has been cropped out, you can see that the theme of the piece is the children’s bath.  The young woman here looks to have her hands full with all the kids waiting to be scrubbed clean by her.

Albert Herter – Ivory Soap ad

Yet another highly productive illustrator who did several pieces for Ivory Soap was Alice Beach Winter.  Although no dates are given for any of these, we can judge from the style, and from what we know of Winter, that these are either from the Edwardian period or slightly later.

Alice Beach Winter – Ivory Soap ad (1)

Alice Beach Winter – Ivory Soap ad (2)

Alice Beach Winter – Ivory Soap ad (3)

I do not know the artist for this next illustration, but again, it’s from the same time period.

Artist Unknown – Ivory Soap ad (1916)

Our final Golden Age illustrator is Clara Elsene Peck.  Like Jessie Willcox Smith, Peck focused primarily on the lives of women and children, which made her a natural fit for illustrating Ivory Soap ads.  I especially like this first piece, which I’m posting two different versions of.

Clara Elsene Peck – Ivory Soap ad (1)(1918)

Clara Elsene Peck – Ivory Soap ad (2)(1918)

Clara Elsene Peck – Ivory Soap ad (3)

And now we move on to the era of photography with a trio of ads featuring images by unidentified photographers.  By the ’50s it became fairly commonplace for advertisers to stop displaying the names of artists, especially photographers.

Photographer Unknown – Ivory Soap ad (1951)

Photographer Unknown – Ivory Soap ad (1959)

Photographer Unknown – Ivory Soap – You can have That Ivory Look in just 7 days

But here is one of the exceptions.  Francesco Scavullo’s work was so well-known and prestigious in the ’60s and ’70s that he has been identified as the photographer in these ads.  The idea of mothers competing with their little daughters to look youthful would later become controversial with feminists, of course.

Francesco Scavullo – Ivory Soap – Can you compete with your daughter’s “Little Girl Look”? (1)

Francesco Scavullo – Ivory Soap – Can you compete with your daughter’s “Little Girl Look”? (2)

Edit: I had intended to add this to the post originally, but it was not yet ready. So I am adding it now.  I had another commercial I wanted to post but its size exceeds the limit for upload so I will simply link to it. – Pip

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Ivory Soap Commercial (1960)

 

Two Photos by Francesco Scavullo

Francesco Scavullo was a well-known fashion photographer whose most noteworthy work was done in the ’60s and ’70s. These include a series on actress and model Brooke Shields which began when she was still a toddler and progressed on through her young adult years. One of the images from that series can be seen below. Often when this image is displayed online, it is cropped just above Shields’s nipples; it’s rare to see the full image. Shields is, of course, known for her roles in such films as Pretty Baby, The Blue Lagoon and Wanda Nevada, as well as numerous television roles.

Francesco Scavullo – Brooke Shields (1975)

Around the same time Scavullo photographed another young girl, Yasmine Bleeth, who had not yet become an actress but was destined to become famous herself, mainly for her roles in soap operas and in the TV show Baywatch.

Francesco Scavullo – Yasmine Bleeth (1975)

Scavullo photographed many other famous models and celebrities throughout his life. In fact, the 82-year-old Scavullo was on his way to photograph an up-and-coming news anchor named Anderson Cooper when he died of heart failure in 2004. His life partner, Sean Byrnes, has survived him. Mr. Scavullo also took photos for advertisements, at least one of which will appear in my next major post, which will be about girls in vintage soap ads.

Portraits from a Jungle Paradise – Karolin Klüppel

Karolin Klüppel is a German artist, who to date has produced four albums of work. One of these series is called ‘Mädchenland’ and is set within the village of Mawlynnong, part of the Indian state of Meghalaya. The people of this area are known as the Khasi and are a matrilineal society, whereby the line of succession passes through the youngest daughter and results in women being the main landholders. If the daughter marries then her husband moves into her family’s house and any children that are born take their mother’s name; there is no stigma or disapproval if a woman chooses to stay single. As only daughters can assure the continuity of a clan, women are respected and protected within the Khasi community. However the society is only matrilineal, not matriarchal, as the men still lead Mawlynnong’s village council and are the main employees within the security services.

Karolin Klüppel – Wanda on the Stairs to the Treehouse (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Prosperity (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Phida With Balloon (2013)

The photographer spent nine months living with various families in the village. During this time the villagers became comfortable with her presence, which allowed for the creation of some intimate and natural looking photographs. She chose to take portrait photographs of the young girls, rather than making a photo-documentation of the society, as

I did not want to do a classical documentary on their culture, … I decided to make a portrait series of the girls because I was so impressed by their self-assured appearance and thought that this must be how matrilineality becomes visible.

The images show the children as they interact, play or simply stand within their environment and homes, thereby displaying Mawlynnong’s physical beauty just as much as the girl’s individual beauty. These girls do get schooling, first in the village school until their teens, then they travel to the state capital for higher education, after which they can choose to go to college or return to Mawlynnong.

Karolin Klüppel – Ibapyntngen in the Cottage (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Yasmin Taking Bath at the River (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Yasmin With Mug (2013)

After its inaugural exhibition ‘Mädchenland’ has gone on to become a multi-awarded and exhibited series and was also published as a book entitled Kingdom of Girls. ‘Mädchenland’ is Karolin’s second series that is focused on a matrilineal society with her previous work, entitled ‘Dabu’, documenting the elderly Mosuo, who live around Lugu Lake, part of China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. A more detailed article about Mädchenland, with fourteen high resolution images, can be found on The New Heroes and Pioneers website.

Compelling Images: Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson – Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy, 1951

Difficult and unspectacular, the Distant Figure is a motif that, by its very nature, demands neglect.

Yet it is a motif that we constantly encounter in our lives and which provokes strong emotions: when we leave our homes, are not most of the people we see far away? And have we not all had dreams in which the sight of a friend walking away, unaware of our presence, too far off to hear us calling, fills us with unbearable melancholy and loneliness?

Distant figures are also surprisingly common in art, especially in photography: the further away the camera probes the more the world is promiscuous, the more space there is for some stray figure to occupy. If the challenge of Still-Life is, what to include within a constrained setting, the challenge of Landscape Photography is, what to do when one has no power to exclude, but only to wait or change one’s viewpoint.

We respond in interestingly different ways to distant figures in photography and distant figures in real life.

In real life we know that a child who occupies only a fraction of a percent of our field of vision is no less a person than the child whose hand we are holding. And we know that in real life the distance can be bridged by taking suitable measures, such as calling out, waving, running or sometimes just waiting.

But in photography the distant figure will never come closer or be reached: physical distance becomes existential distance. And as figures recede, first their individuality then their humanity is lost. Further on they register as just blurs and smears. Finally they disappear.

In Cartier-Bresson’s photograph every girl in the scene has noticed the photographer—who, being 42 when he took this photograph, was still young enough to catch a girl’s eye. Everyone else seems oblivious to him. As if to underline this, the only adult eyes we are in a position to see are crossed out by the wire-work arch at the bottom of the steps.

The three girls stood in front of the church door engaged with the photographer from a distance that balances caution and curiosity. Above them we read the invocation to the Virgin Mary, ‘Ora pro nobis’. According to ancient Jewish custom Mary was betrothed to Joseph at the age of 12—not much older than the eldest of these girls.

One of the girls is making a gesture reminiscent of the women carrying trays of loaves on their heads, and which echos the metal arch in the foreground, the lintel above the church door and the curve of the distant mountain. Her gesture at first appears playful and balletic. But a closer inspection reveals that she is actually holding in place upon her head something large and dark. Her gesture is one of burden, not of grace.

A fourth girl has turned a corner and is emerging ‘de profundis’. Her upturned face catches the light and is joyful, as if she had just turned the corner and recognised the distant man with a camera as a long-lost friend.

Random Image: Marina Castillo

I must admit, like Charles Dodgson, I have a weakness for images that illustrate concepts in mathematics and logic.  This image was appropriated for a module on proportions in the United States; namely, the size of the image varies inversely as its distance from the observer (or the camera).

Marina Castillo – Midiendo fuerzas … (2012)

Marina Castillo lives in Mendoza, Argentina and this image is part of a series called ‘Scenes of dwarfs and giants’.  One cannot be completely sure, but it does appear that these scenes were constructed conventionally and not digitized.  If so, then a special setting or lens would have to have been used to maintain a depth of focus for the subjects in the frame.  This one which means “balancing forces” has the additional appeal of being a nod to girl power.

An Update on Zinaida Serebriakova

A few years ago I did an article on Russian painter Zinaida Serebriakova, whose images of her own daughters are particularly powerful and charming. Well, I was just made aware of a heretofore unknown (to me at least) Serebriakova piece that went up for auction at Sotheby’s a couple of years ago and sold, according to this article (which is in Russian), for around 3.85 million pounds sterling, or nearly six million dollars, making it the most expensive item of the entire lot of mostly Russian paintings sold that day. Although you cannot see the entire painting in the article, there were plenty of full-sized versions online. I chose the best of the bunch to share here.

Zinaida Serebriakova – Sleeping Girl

 

Maiden Voyages: July 2017

Mission Statement: As this site developed, it has become more and more apparent that it serves a greater purpose than one would assume at first glance.  As if living in a nightmarish world of doublespeak, it seems as if the mainstream culture would portray us as misanthropes.  We have, in fact, pursued the exploration of the subject of little girls with a sincere desire for self-knowledge.  Every investigation and every decision has two sides and thus we are not only examining the character and nature of little girls themselves, but why they have such a psychological effect on us.  A few serious people out there understand this and realize that this site must survive and persistently make its presence known to the mainstream community.  It was thought that to help bridge the gap, there should be an explicit mission statement so that those unfamiliar with this site and who might get the wrong first impression can see that this is a serious endeavor with a challenging mission.  The first four, and most essential, clauses in this statement have now been published—each introduced through the Facebook page and then added to the ‘Mission Statement’ page here.  More clauses will be added, but the key points are now in place and other pages will be added in time to make Pigtails in Paint a more effective resource and launching point for relevant and constructive social change.

An Image is Worth a Thousand Words: In the June ‘Maiden Voyages’ I reported how Google+ censored a photograph by Ilona Szwarc, hinting that it “depicts the exploitation or abuse of children” or “presents children in a sexual manner”. Now Christian informs me that his profile was temporarily suspended under a similar pretext after having participated to a Google+ discussion group opposing the stigmatization of minorities and, by extension, pedophiles; which was eventually banned. On the other hand, groups or individual profiles propagating hate, in particular glorifying Nazism or promoting anti-Semitism have not been removed, despite being reported; some of this content happens to be illegal in certain European countries, according to anti-racist watchdog organizations. So efforts are underway to put pressure on Google if it wishes to continue operating in those countries.  For any Google+ users who want to protest this hypocrisy, they can write on the profile of the Google+ owner or on the Google+ Help community.

Rescuing the Girl Next Door: There is a new film called The Book of Henry (2017) about a boy who uses his genius to help others.  His next door neighbor, played by Maddie Ziegler, is being abused by her stepfather while Henry helps strategize what to do about it.  You can watch the trailer here.

Archetypes of Femininity: A colleague recommended an interesting book published in 1988 called Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Sìecle Culture by Bram Dijkstra.  It is an intelligent overview of the perceptions of women in Victorian times and how that shaped their portrayal in imagery.  Dijkstra’s research is excellent, but he condemns artists too much for being the products of their own age.  It also points out how artists, including women, could only gain success if their work presented acceptable subjects and interpretations.  The eventual fascination with the girl child came about in an age that was infantilizing women and artists were escaping to so-called purer forms supposedly devoid of the evils of sexuality undeniable in the adult female form.  Because of this, it became possible for artists, like Charles Dodgson, to explore—however subconsciously—the eroticism of children with impunity.  This offers some real insight into the cultural environment these artists worked in.  The book is more valuable for its observations of cultural movements and how they shape today’s attitudes rather than Dijkstra’s opinion on the merit of particular artists.  The book is discussed on Celestial Venus and a book review can be found here.

Putting the Nature Back in Naturism: An associate mentioned a couple of images he found featuring naturists in the San Francisco area.  The TreeSpirit Project  founded and photographed by Jack Gescheidt was already reviewed by Pip but continues to add new images of which prints can be ordered.  It is important to realize that nudity can be used as an important political tactic that is both consistent with the group’s agenda while challenging people’s perceptions and complacency.

Child Models and Actors: Often lost in the sensationalist debate is the reality of child modeling and the children’s perception of their experience.  One of our readers has been feeding me interesting articles and tidbits on this subject and I keep meaning to pass them on.  So for the next few months, I will be publishing the links here until I have gotten through all of them.  Most of these items have to do with the stigmatization of children being nude, but I know that these issues overlap with many other ethical and legal subjects as well.  The first submission is anecdotal; it appears that there is actually a Facebook fashion blog that features a nude girl as its avatar.  I have also been informed that a nude image was successfully uploaded on IMDb from The Spy Who Caught a Cold recently reviewed on this site.

A Skin Thing: The producers of a recent exhibition called Skin Thing in Australia made a very apt choice for introductory speaker, Olympia Nelson.  Those familiar with Nelson will remember that her family became the subject of controversy and she courageously defended her mother’s (Polixeni Papapetrou) work publicly at the tender age of ten. Interestingly, there are reports that the artist will soon be releasing certain images that were held back at that time because of the thoughtless and hurtful comments received.

The Devil You Know: I Am Never Going Back

It was Pip’s original intent to review two short films dealing with the subject of child abuse and neglect. The first by Belgian director Hilde van Mieghem, De suikerpot (The Sugarbowl, 1997), was reviewed earlier on Pigtails and effectively showed the psychological tension of surviving in a home with a mother who goes into an angry rage at the slightest provocation. It is remarkable how consistently young children internalize the conflicts in their world as though it were their fault. While The Sugarbowl might be described as a kind of suspense-thriller, Я сюда больше никогда не вернусь (I Am Never Going Back, 1990) is a grim tragedy with a documentary feel. The film, directed by Rolan Bykov (Ролан Быков, 1929–1998) was commissioned by UNESCO to expose the terrible conditions many children suffered in the Soviet Union. It was intended to be part of a series called Comment vont les enfants? (How Are the Kids?) The alternate title, Люба (Luba), is the main character’s name played by Nina Goncharova. Ironically, the name is the diminutive form of a girl’s name that also means “Love” in Russian.  Bykov’s choice for actress lay primarily in the believability of her performance; Goncharova was herself an orphan living in Tashkent at the time but is an ethnic Russian.

During the 10-minute film, Luba acts out the drama of her home life with a doll and stuffed animals she has hidden in the woods. In the beginning, she is seen running away after a severe screaming fit and beating by her mother played by Elena Sanaeva. Another key difference between the Belgian and Russian films is that this one illustrates the conditions of poverty while the girl in De suikerpot came from a well-off family that could afford to send her to boarding school. As a result, the use of language is much cruder here. Both mothers wail about how they are cursed with such a rotten and ungrateful child. There is a moment of tension in the beginning when we see Luba near a passing train while the mother yells out that she wishes the train would run her over.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (1)

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (2)

Observing Luba running into the wilds, there is a strong feeling of the stark contrast between the oppressive environment at home and the serenity of nature just a short distance away. The girl starts calling out that mommy is coming to take care of her sweethearts. We do not yet understand to whom she is speaking and, as if answering back to herself, she says that mother is a bitch and neglects her children, with mutual accusations about how the other hogs the food. These situations are full of ambivalence: alternating between hating the mother and then convincing her how much they love her. Perhaps more than the physical abuse, this kind of psychological stress takes the greater toll.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (3)

In 2010, Izvestia interviewed Goncharova and Sanaeva about their experiences. It appears that little had improved in the mean time with about a thousand children being killed by their parents every year. In 2002, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office reported about 44,000 crimes committed against minors and in 2007, there were 70,000. Under these conditions, it is no wonder that some survivors would find the idealism of fascism appealing as we seem to be observing with Katya Zashtopic.

Finally a small clearing is reached that serves as the scene for a makeshift home. We see the stuffed animals and doll for the first time. Shortly, mother and children get into an argument and she begins beating the bear all the while telling him that she is doing it because she cares about him and he really doesn’t understand. She scolds him for neglecting his school work. Because of the phonetic resemblance, the name “Misha” used in this scene is both the diminutive for Mikhail and the nickname for a bear. Luba beats him up and tells him how empty-headed he is but after his studies, she will have him and the doll get married. Misha retorts that he does not need schooling because he is going into the army anyway. Another interesting difference between poor and middle-class households is, due to the lack of privacy, poor children are usually privy to the specifics of sexual intercourse taking place in their home. Luba positions the bear behind the doll as though he were mounting her.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (4)

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (5)

As with all rages and tantrums, there is the period of sincere remorse afterward accompanied by promises not to do it again. The stuffing has come out of Misha and she tries to fix him by filling him up with dirt and material on hand, nice and fat, just like an army general—a Russian cliché is that army generals are fat and so the implication is that in such a condition, they would be eager to admit him to military school right away.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (6)

Now Luba frets that mother is going to kill her now that her dress has gotten soiled. She takes off her panties and dress and washes them in the stream. She uses her dress as a blanket under which the the bear can recuperate. All the while she is consoling them that at least they are not in an orphanage where they beat children’s heads against the wall—like the fate of many ethnic minorities, presumably. She scolds the monkeys for spying on her while undressed and tells them they are too young to look and tells them to take a walk.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (7)

While lifting the bear, her makeshift stuffing comes out and she scolds him for crapping himself. Without stuffing, the bear dies and she crosses its arms and has the doll close her eyes in grief. Once again, this is followed by apologies and wails over what will happen to the family next.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (8)

Luba walks over to a cliff overlooking a river. There is an ominous gust of wind and then she hears her mother calling out again asking her darling for forgiveness. But the apologetic tone quickly turns to impatience and the mother begins to scream for her good-for-nothing daughter to get home. Luba looks back and calls out that she is never coming home. As if driven by her mother’s voice, she shrieks one final desperate exclamation of terror and jumps off the cliff.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (9)

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (10)

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (11)

Bykov had a lot of experience dealing with actors having been a film and theater actor, director, writer and teacher. He was even given the designation of People’s Artist of the USSR. His favorite writer is Gogol and likes his use of surrealism. Art refracts life but can give it a magical quality and so Luba is made to transcend the ordinary in a final scene where she appears to be levitating—perhaps a hopeful expression of release and redemption.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (12)

Bykov discovered Goncharova when she was featured in a telethon. She was born cross-eyed and suffered a tragic family life before being placed in an orphanage. Her father had beat her mother and when the grandmother tried to intervene on her daughter’s behalf, she was imprisoned. The father abandoned the mother leaving her with four kids and died later in prison. Because she was so young at the time of filming, the director did not bother to explain the plot to Goncharova and knew the actress would draw on her own experiences to create a convincing performance.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (13)

For a while, Gonchorova lived at Bykovs’ home and Sanaeva took her to have her eyes surgically corrected, convincing the medical authorities that she was the girl’s mother. Then she was sent to a boarding school and majored in typography. She was never officially married but did have an Islamic ceremony with the father of her first child, a girl. Disappointed at this outcome, her ersatz husband abandoned them. She did later have a son with another man. She could never make use of her education because of the demands of motherhood so she started living with a good friend who could earn money while she took care of their home.

It could be said that the film was also a victim of neglect. The money originally promised to distribute the film never came through and so the final print of the film was passed from hand to hand until its value was finally recognized, transferred into other video formats and released on the internet.

There are many people behind the scenes that make Pigtails in Paint work and some posts are strong reminders of these contributions. Therefore, this post is dedicated to someone who goes by the handle “B.O.” who not only created the English transcription for this film but was also responsible for rescuing the original content of Pigtails when it was suddenly shut down by WordPress. In other words, he is one of our guardian angels and his efforts are greatly appreciated. -Ron

Wikipedia Entry (in Russian)

The Quintessential American Illustrator: Jessie Willcox Smith

Jessie Willcox Smith was born in Philadelphia on September 6, 1863 to Charles Henry Smith and Katherine Dewitt Smith. At the age of sixteen she was sent to Cincinnati to live with her cousins and complete her education. The artist did not have any interest in drawing at this time, therefore she studied teaching and taught at a kindergarten in 1883. By the end of the year she realised that teaching would be an unsuitable occupation. Jessie discovered her talent for drawing by accident. One of her cousins was an art tutor and this cousin asked the artist to chaperone her to and participate in a private art lesson. At the end the lesson it was noticed that her drawings were very good and when her friends saw the drawings they strongly encouraged her to study art.

In 1884 Jessie moved back to Philadelphia to study at the School of Design for Women, now called Moore College of Art and Design, however she found this school to be unsuitable for her interests and transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. While there she had her first image, entitled ‘Five Little Maidens All in a Row’, published in St. Nicholas Magazine.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Five Little Maidens All in a Row (1888)

Jessie graduated in 1888 and took a position in the advertising department at Ladies’ Home Journal where she finished rough sketches, prepared advertising art and designed borders. While working there she was also actively approaching publishers with her illustrations. The publisher Lee and Shepard accepted some of these images and they appeared in a book entitled New and True, by Mary Wiley Staver. Wishing to improve her drawings the artist enrolled in Saturday afternoon classes at Drexel University, where she was taught by Howard Pyle. She studied there from 1894 to 1897, during which time her illustrations became much more realistic looking. Pyle would actively go out and get commissions for the students that he considered to have good artistic abilities and he did this for Jessie when he secured her the job of illustrating, in partnership with Violet Oakley, the book entitled Evangeline, which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1897.

After graduating from Drexel Jessie was offered a teaching position there, however, due to her teacher’s help in finding illustration contracts she had achieved some success, so declined the offer. Her new-found financial stability allowed her to leave the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1898. At the turn of the century the artist’s work was in high demand; she was freelancing for several publishers and magazines, including completing a series of covers for Colliers. The artist knew that she could get recognition and contracts by displaying her works at exhibitions. Her artworks received national attention at the Charleston Exposition where one received the Bronze Medal for painting; this would be her first of many awards. Advertising commissions were another source of income and she produced a series of advertisements for Ivory Soap, Kodak and Cream of Wheat. Displayed below is her advertisement for Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company.  This charming image was so well received it was reprinted in many of the popular magazines across America.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company Advertisement (1924)

One of Jessie’s most important works during this period was a calendar called The Child, published in 1902. The calendar was a collaboration with Elizabeth Shippen Green and featured some of their most beautiful child-based images. Almost immediately after publication Stokes, a New York based publisher, asked to reprint the works as a book. Mabel Humphrey was commissioned to write a series of poems and short stories to match the illustrations and The Book of The Child was published in 1903. It became so popular that both artists would be guaranteed illustrating contracts well into the future. More recognition followed later that year when the artist exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts and subsequently won the Mary Smith Prize.

The majority of Jessie’s works can be found in magazines which, due to their low sales price, were a popular form of entertainment at the time. As women were the main readership of magazines, editors would seek out women artists who could produce the images that these readers desired to see. The artist’s sentimentalised and idealised illustrations neatly fitted into this requirement and she was constantly in demand. An example of this demand can be seen in 1905 when she was commissioned to work exclusively for Colliers. However she felt that this was a restriction on her art, as she had to decline several other projects because of this work agreement; therefore in 1907 she ended the contract and went back to freelancing. The decision to go back to freelancing was a good idea as she received a commission from Good Housekeeping magazine, which eventually lead her to create every cover image for this magazine from December 1917 through to April 1933, becoming the artist with the longest consecutive run of magazine covers. Some of these covers can be found at the Good Housekeeping website.  She also produced a series of Mother Goose drawings for this magazine, which were then reproduced in the book entitled The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose, published by Dodd, Mead, and Company in 1914.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Good Housekeeping Cover (1929)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Mother Goose (1914)

Book illustrations were a major source of income for Jessie with about fifty books known to contain her images. Her most well-known book illustrations appeared in The Water-Babies. Published in 1916 by Dodd, Mead, and Co., the book was of high quality and the images, printed on glossy paper, displayed her technical abilities and proficiency at using mixed media more than any other published works. The artist must also have considered these to be some of her best works as she bequeathed all twelve of the originals to the Library of Congress, which are now viewable online. Many of the books by Jessie were produced for a global market and there was such high demand for some that many reprints occurred, even now you are able to find some of these reprints. As she was being paid royalties for all these re-releases and wanting to spend more time on private portraiture commissions, she largely stopped producing images for books in 1925. The books containing her illustrations that did appear after 1925 would only have a few images, usually as a frontispiece or dust wrapper. I also suspect that old age—she was sixty-two in 1925—and the demands of having to create multiple original illustrations in a short amount of time would also be a reason for stopping book contracts.

Jessie Willcox Smith – A Childs Garden of Verses (1905)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Summer Passing (1908)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Merry Christmas (1917)

Having rarely travelled, the artist was eventually convinced by friends to go on a European tour, accompanied by a trained nurse. Rather than having a positive affect, this journey simply made all her health problems worse and two years after returning she died on May 3, 1935, at the age of seventy-one.

Smith’s style changed a lot through her career. At the start of her working life she would create black and white images in charcoal and her colour images were mostly watercolours with pen and ink outlines to highlight objects and people in a style often described as “Japanesque”. In later works she became skilled in mixed media, overlaying watercolour and oils on charcoal to get the desired effect. The artist would rarely use professional models and greatly disliked them. When talking about professional models in an interview she expressed the opinion that

Such a thing as a paid and trained model is an abomination and a travesty on childhood – a poor little crushed and scared, unnatural atom, automatically taking the pose and keeping it in a spiritless and lifeless manner. The professional child model is usually a horribly self-conscious, overdressed child …

 

Instead she would use the children of friends and from some of the wealthy families of Philadelphia, she also adapted or reused paintings from her portraiture work, as these children created highly natural and realistic images. She would also photograph and do quick sketches of the children as they sat and played in her studio and gardens which would become part of a large file of images to use when she did not have models available. It is not known why most of her images featured children, though it can be presumed that she did have an intense love for them, based on her first career choice of teaching young children. Having children as models could also have filled in for the lack of her own children. Additionally, she was not creating drawings due to market demands, as all magazine illustrators prior to Jessie’s appearance produced images of women engaged in household work, yet these painters kept receiving contracts despite the absence of children.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ann and Mary Leisenring (1922)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Jeanne C. Flood (1929)

When compiling this work, I extensively used two books these are: Jesse Willcox Smith: American Illustrator (1990) by Edward D. Nudelman, printed by Pelican Publishing and Jessie Willcox Smith (1977) by S. Michael Schnessel, printed by Studio Vista. Both books have several dozen images by the artist and extensive biographies with Schnessel’s book containing the most written information. I also found that at least twelve of her books have been digitised on archive.org, this includes some of her most well-known works. Lastly, when referencing her first published illustration many sources say it is ‘Three Little Maidens’, however, I have said five as this was the number mentioned in both biographies and the accompanied image clearly shows five children.

Few images from The Book of the Child appear on the internet.  Two of the images appear on Pigtails’ 5th Anniversary post, one from Smith and one from Green.  The remaining images will be published on this site as time permits.  -Ron