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Violet Oakley, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Jessie Willcox Smith & Henrietta Cozens

Elizabeth Shippen Green (September 1, 1871 – 1954) was an American illustrator. She illustrated children's books and worked for many years for Harper's Magazine.

Green studied with the painters Thomas Anshutz and Robert Vonnoh at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1889–1893). She then began study with Howard Pyle at Drexel Institute where she met Violet Oakley and Jessie Willcox Smith.

As educational opportunities were made more available in the 19th-century, women artists became part of professional enterprises, including founding their own art associations. Artwork made by women was considered to be inferior, and to help overcome that stereotype women became “increasingly vocal and confident” in promoting women's work, and thus became part of the emerging image of the educated, modern and freer “New Woman”. Artists "played crucial roles in representing the New Woman, both by drawing images of the icon and exemplifying this emerging type through their own lives.” In the late 19th-century and early 20th century about 88% of the subscribers of 11,000 magazines and periodicals were women. As women entered the artist community, publishers hired women to create illustrations that depict the world through a woman's perspective. Other successful illustrators were Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Rose O'Neill, and Violet Oakley.

Green was a member of Philadelphia's The Plastic Club, an organization established to promote "Art for art's sake". Other members included Elenore Abbott, Jessie Willcox Smith, and Violet Oakley. Many of the women who founded the organization had been students of Howard Pyle. It was founded to provide a means to encourage one another professionally and create opportunities to sell their works of art.


"The Journey": illustration for a series of poems by Josephine Preston Peabody, entitled "The Little Past", which relate experiences of childhood from a child's perspective. Published in Harper's Magazine, December 1903. Restored digital file from original oil painting.

She was publishing before she was eighteen and began making pen and ink drawings and illustrations for St. Nicholas Magazine, Woman's Home Companion, and the Saturday Evening Post. In 1911, she signed an exclusive contract with Harper's Monthly. Green was also a prolific book illustrator.

Green became close and lifelong friends with Oakley and Smith. They lived together first at the Red Rose Inn (they were called the Red Rose girls by Pyle) and later at Cogslea, their home in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.

In 1911, Green married Huger Elliott, an architecture professor, and moved away from Cogslea. Green continued to work through the 1920s and illustrated a nonsense verse alphabet with her husband. Green died in 1954. In 1994, she was elected posthumously to the Society of illustrators' Hall of Fame.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Shippen_Green

Jessie Willcox Smith (September 6, 1863 – May 3, 1935) was one of the most prominent female illustrators in the United States during the Golden Age of American illustration. She was a prolific contributor to respected books and magazines during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She illustrated stories and articles for clients such as Century, Collier's, Leslie's Weekly, Harper's, McClure's, Scribners, and the Ladies' Home Journal. She had an ongoing relationship with Good Housekeeping, including the long-running Mother Goose series of illustrations and creating all the covers from 1915 to 1933. Among the more than 60 books that Smith illustrated were Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and An Old-Fashioned Girl, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline, and Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses.

Jessie Willcox Smith was born in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the youngest girl born to Charles Henry Smith, an investment broker, and Katherine DeWitt Willcox Smith. Jessie attended private elementary schools and at the age of sixteen she was sent to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with her cousins and finish her education. She trained to be a teacher and taught kindergarten in 1883, but found that the physical demands of working with children too strenuous for her; Due to back problems, she had difficulty bending down to their level. Persuaded to attend one of her friend or cousin's art classes, Smith realized she had a talent for drawing.

In 1884 or 1885, Smith attended the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design) and in 1885 attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia under Thomas Eakins and Thomas Anshute's supervision. It was under Eakins that Smith began to use photography as a resource in her illustrations. Although Eakins' demeanor could be difficult, particularly with female students, he became one of her first major influences. In May 1888, while Smith was still at the Pennsylvania Academy, her illustration Three Little Maidens All in a Row was published in the St. Nicholas Magazine. Illustration was a professional avenue that women could employ to make a living as an artist at the time. At this time, creating illustrations for children's books or of family life was considered an appropriate career for woman artists because it drew upon maternal instincts. Fine art that included life drawing was not considered lady-like. Illustration became a viable career partly due to improved color printing processes and the resurgence in England in book design. Smith graduated from PAFA in June 1888 and joined the first magazine for women, the Ladies' Home Journal the same year, where she had an entry-level position in the advertising department finishing rough sketches, designing borders, and preparing advertising art for the magazine. She illustrated the book of poetry New and True (1892) by Mary Wiley Staver.


Photograph of Violet Oakley and Jessie Willcox Smith facing the camera and Elizabeth Shippen Green and Henrietta Cozens , who are partially hidden, c. 1901, Violet Oakley papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Illustrators Jessie Wilcox Smith and Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Muralist Violet Oakley, took over the Red Rose Inn, a picturesque estate in Villanova, on Philadelphia's Main Line. They made a pact to live together forever - until one of them created havoc by marrying (Elizabeth Shippen Green in 1911). The three illustrators received the "Red Rose Girls" nickname. They later lived, along with Henrietta Cozens, in a home in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia that they named Cogslea after their four surnames (Cozens, Oakley, Green and Smith).


Elizabeth Shippen Green, Life was made for love and cheer, depicts the artist, Jessie Willcox Smith and Violet Oakley and other friends at the Red Rose Inn.

During her time at the Ladies' Home Journal, Smith enrolled in 1894 in Saturday classes at Drexel University with Howard Pyle. She was in his first class at Drexel, which had almost 50% female students. Pyle pushed many artists of Smith's generation to fight for their right to illustrate for the major publishing houses of the time. He worked especially closely with many artists who he saw as "gifted." Smith said that working with Pyle swept away "all the cobwebs and confusions that so beset the path of the art-student." Her speech was later compiled in the 1923 work "Report of the Private View of Exhibition of the Works of Howard Pyle at the Art Alliance." She studied with Pyle through 1897.

Smith met Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley while studying at Drexel with whom she would share talent, mutual interests, and lifelong friendship. The women shared a studio on Philadelphia's Chestnut Street. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline, illustrated by Oakley and Smith, was published in 1897.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Smith's career flourished. She illustrated a number of books, magazines, and created an advertisement for Ivory soap. Her works were published in Scribner's, Harper's Bazaar, Harper's Weekly, and St. Nicholas Magazine. She won an award for Child Washing. Green, Smith, and Oakley became known as "The Red Rose Girls" after the Red Rose Inn in Villanova, Pennsylvania where they lived and worked together for four years beginning in the early 1900s. They leased the inn where they were joined by Oakley's mother, Green's parents, and Henrietta Cozens, who managed the gardens and inn. Alice Carter created a book about the women entitled The Red Rose Girls: An Uncommon Story of Art and Love for an exhibition of their work at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Museum Director Laurie Norton Moffatt said of them, "These women were considered the most influential artists of American domestic life at the turn of the twentieth century. Celebrated in their day, their poetic, idealized images still prevail as archetypes of motherhood and childhood a century later."

Green and Smith illustrated the calendar, The Child in 1903.Smith exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts that year and won the Mary Smith prize. When the artists lost the lease on the Red Rose Inn in 1904, a farmhouse was remodeled for them in West Mount Airy, Philadelphia by Frank Miles Day. They named their new shared home and workplace "Cogslea", drawn from the initials of their surnames and that of Smith's roommate, Henrietta Cozens.

As educational opportunity opened up to women in the later 19th century, women artists joined professional enterprises, and also founded their own art associations. But artwork by 'lady artists' was considered inferior. To help overcome that stereotype women became " increasingly vocal and confident " in promoting their work, as part of the emerging image of the educated, modern and freer "New Woman". Artists "played crucial roles in representing the New Woman, both by drawing images of the icon and exemplifying this emerging type through their own lives."

Never a travel enthusiast, Smith finally agreed to tour Europe in 1933 with the Isabel Crowder, who was Henrietta Cozens' niece, and a nurse. During her trip, her health became poorer and she died at age of 71 in her house at Cogshill in 1935. In 1936, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts held a memorial retrospective exhibition of her works.

Smith was the second woman to be inducted into The Hall of Fame of the Society of Illustrators. Lorraine Fox (1979) was the first woman inductee. Of the small group of women inductees, three of them were members of The Red Rose Girls, Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green (1994) and Violet Oakley (1996).

Smith bequeathed 14 original works to the Library of Congress' "Cabinet of American Illustration" collection to document the Golden age of illustration (1880-1920s). Smith's papers are on deposit in the collection of the American Art Archives at the Smithsonian Institution.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessie_Willcox_Smith

Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery in Kings County, New York. It was granted National Historic Landmark status in 2006 by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

There is buried Violet Oakley (June 10, 1874 – February 25, 1961), who, in 1902, received the largest public mural commission for an American woman until that time, at the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg. She lived in a “Boston marriage” with three other female artists (nicknamed the Red Rose Girls).

Oakley and her two friends, the artists Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith, all former students of Pyle, were named the Red Rose girls by him. The three illustrators received the "Red Rose Girls" nickname while they lived together in the Red Rose Inn in Villanova, Pennsylvania from 1899 to 1901. They later lived, along with Henrietta Cozens (1862 - 1940), in a home in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia that they named Cogslea after their four surnames (Cozens, Oakley, Green and Smith).

Violet Oakley was the first American woman to receive a public mural commission. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, she was renowned as a pathbreaker in mural decoration, a field that had been exclusively practiced by men. Oakley excelled at murals and stained glass designs that addressed themes from history and literature in Renaissance-revival styles.

Oakley was born in Bergen Heights (a section of Jersey City), New Jersey, into a family of artists. Her parents were Arthur Edmund Oakley and Cornelia Swain. Both of her grandfathers were member of the National Academy of Design. In 1892, she studied at the Art Students League of New York. A year later, she studied in England and France, under Raphaël Collin and others. After her return to the United States in 1896, she studied briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before she joined Howard Pyle's famous illustration class at Drexel Institute. She had early success as a popular illustrator for magazines including The Century Magazine, Collier's Weekly, St. Nicholas Magazine, and Woman's Home Companion. The style of her illustrations and stained glass reflects her emulation of the English Pre-Raphaelites. Oakley's commitment to Victorian aesthetics during the advent of Modernism led to the decline of her reputation by the middle of the twentieth century.


Violet Oakley Studio on the NRHP since September 13, 1977. At 627 St. George's Road in Mount Airy neighborhood of NW Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker is in front of this house, 621. The next house on the street is 631. There is a private drive between the 2, so the actual studio may be behind this building (if the apparent contradiction of the sources is forced to be resolved)

Oakley's political beliefs were shaped by the Quaker William Penn (1644-1718) whose ideals she represented in her murals at the Pennsylvania State Capitol. She became committed to the Quaker principles of pacifism, equality of the races and sexes, economic and social justice, and international government. When the United States refused to join the League of Nations after the Great War, Oakley went to Geneva, Switzerland, and spent three years drawing portraits of the League's delegates which she published in her portfolio, "Law Triumphant" (Philadelphia, 1932). She was an early advocate of nuclear disarmament after World War II.

Oakley was raised in the Episcopal church but in 1903 became a devoted student of Christian Science after a significant healing of asthma while she was doing preparatory study for the first set of Harrisburg murals in Florence, Italy. She was a member of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Philadelphia from 1912, when it was organized, until her death in 1961.

She received many honors through her life including an honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree in 1948 from Drexel Institute. In 1905, she became the first woman to receive the Gold Medal of Honor from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Oakley and her two friends, the artists Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith, all former students of Pyle, were named the Red Rose girls by him. The three illustrators received the "Red Rose Girls" nickname while they lived together in the Red Rose Inn in Villanova, Pennsylvania from 1899 to 1901. They later lived, along with Henrietta Cozens, in a home in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia that they named Cogslea after their four surnames (Cozens, Oakley, Green and Smith). In 1996, Oakley was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, the last of the 'Red Rose Girls' to be inducted, but one of only ten women in the hall. Cogslea was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as the Violet Oakley Studio. Her home and studio at Yonkers, New York, where she resided intermittently between 1912 and 1915 is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Plashbourne Estate.

Oakley was a member of Philadelphia's The Plastic Club, an organization established to promote "Art for art's sake". Other members included Elenore Abbott, Jessie Willcox Smith, and Elizabeth Shippen Green. Many of the women who founded the organization had been students of Howard Pyle. It was founded to provide a means to encourage one another professionally and create opportunities to sell their works of art.

On June 14, 2014, Miss Oakley was featured in the first gay-themed tour of Green-Wood Cemetery, where she is interred in the Oakley family plot, Section 63, Lot 14788.

As educational opportunities were made more available in the 19th-century, women artists became part of professional enterprises, including founding their own art associations. Artwork made by women was considered to be inferior, and to help overcome that stereotype women became "increasingly vocal and confident" in promoting women's work, and thus became part of the emerging image of the educated, modern and freer "New Woman". Artists "played crucial roles in representing the New Woman, both by drawing images of the icon and exemplyfying this emerging type through their own lives." In the late 19th-century and early 20th century about 88% of the subscribers of 11,000 magazines and periodicals were women. As women entered the artist community, publishers hired women to create illustrations that depict the world through a woman's perspective. Other successful illustrators were Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Rose O'Neill, and Elizabeth Shippen Green.

Oakley painted a series of 43 murals in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg for the Governors Grand Reception Room, the Senate and the Supreme Court. Oakley was originally commissioned only for the murals in the Governor's Grand Reception Room, which she titled "The Founding of the State of Liberty Spiritual." In the fourteen reception room murals, Oakley depicts the story of William Penn and the founding of Pennsylvania. She conducted extensive research on the subject, even traveling to England. The series of murals were unveiled in the new Capitol Building in November 1906, shortly after the dedication of the building. When Edwin Austin Abbey died in 1911, Violet Oakley was offered the job of creating the murals for the Senate and Supreme Court Chambers, a 16-year project.

Oakley's other work includes:
Two murals and stained glass work for All Angels Church, New York City, her first commission, 1900
Murals for the Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland, Ohio, her only major mural commission outside Pennsylvania
Panel for the living room of the Alumnae House at Vassar College
Eighteen mural panels on The Building of the House of Wisdom and stained glass dome for the Charlton Yarnell House, 1910, at 17th and Locust Street in Philadelphia (murals removed and in collection of Woodmere Art Museum).
Great Women of the Bible murals, First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, 1945–1949
David and Goliath for the library at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy
The Holy Experiment: A message to the World from Pennsylvania, published by the author in a limited edition of 500, an Elephant Folio with 26 lithographic plates of the artist's mural work at the Senate Chambers, with text by the artist/author.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violet_Oakley

Further Readings:

The Red Rose Girls: An Uncommon Story of Art and Love by Alice A. Carter
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (April 23, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0810990687
Amazon: The Red Rose Girls: An Uncommon Story of Art and Love

This is the biography of illustrators Jessie Wilcox Smith and Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Muralist Violet Oakley, who took over the Red Rose Inn, a picturesque estate on Philadelphia's Main Line. They made a pact to live together forever - until one of them created havoc by marrying.

Three of the first American women artists to achieve fame and fortune in the Victorian era--Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley--lived unconventional lives marked by a remarkable degree of collaboration. In this fascinating but incomplete study, Carter explores the trio's internecine artistic and romantic relations, sparked during their studies at the renowned Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Smith's idyllic representations of children in her Child's Garden of Verses remain well known. Green's art-nouveau paintings graced the covers of most of the popular magazines of her day, including Collier's and Harper's. Oakley, the youngest of the group, was the first American woman granted serious commissions, including a series of murals for the Pennsylvania State Capitol in 1911. For 17 years, the three committed themselves to each other as "sympathetic companions" and artistic collaborators, sharing a studio in Philadelphia and then an estate, the Red Rose Inn, in Villanova, Pa., where another companion, Henrietta Cozens, served as the "wife" of the household. As the women's fame grew, the press lauded their accomplished m?nage ? quatre (not considered a disgrace in the days when "Boston marriages" were presumed to be asexual). But when Green married at 39 after a seven-year engagement, Oakley's devastation created a scandal and severed the group's artistic partnership. Carter builds a solid foundation but never fully fleshes out the artists or their romantic association, though the exquisite illustrations are worth the price of admission. 115 b&w and 60 color illus. Agent, John Campbell. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More Real Life Romances at my website: www.elisarolle.com

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