Dickens's Children illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1912
This charming book, first published in 1912, retells portions of books by Charles Dickens, featuring the memorable child characters such as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and the Jellyby family. It includes background information on the novels, and ten full-color, full-page illustrations by the inimitable Jessie Willcox Smith.
Dickens’s Children is a collection of 10 illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith, featuring the younger characters from the novels of Charles Dickens. The work was commissioned by Scribner’s in 1911; eight of the drawings subsequently printed in their magazine, and the book published in 1912. The original Jessie Willcox Smith art is described as ‘mixed media’ and looks to be watercolor with oil (the snow) and pastel.
Jessie Willcox Smith was born in Philadelphia. After school, she briefly holds a job as a kindergarten teacher but unhappy with teaching, she returns to Philadelphia and enrolled at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, and soon switched to the more intensive Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts. She joined Howard Pyle’s class at the Drexel Institute, alongside Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley. Howard Pyle set up Smith and Oakley to collaborate on the 1897 illustration of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline. The group of female illustrators grew and to become known as the Red Rose Girls - a synonym of the Golden Age of American illustration, a time when magazines were richly illustrated. The four member-women lived together from 1897 to 1911. Two group members, Smith and Cozens resided together from their days at the Red Rose Inn until their deaths. Jessie Willcox Smith received great respect and achieved financial success. Along with her companions, she was a member of the prestigious Philadelphia Plastic Club, an organization of women artists. Her illustrations graced the covers and pages of such publications as Harper’s, Scribner’s, Collier’s, Woman's Home Companion, Century, and McClure’s. Smith’s career lasted until 1933, when her eyesight began to fail. Smith died in 1935.