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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 drawings for The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, which demonstrates her gift for imagining a child’s experience. Her colleagues Mary Hallock Foote, Alice Barber Stephens, and Elizabeth Shippen Green primarily created illustrations for mainstream magazines for adult readers that ­­showed women outside the traditional domestic sphere exploring commerce, fashion, their own interests and talents, and in scenes including men. Foote was best known for her depictions of life in the American West. Stephens and Green also won praise for their book illustrations, and Jessie Gillespie explored novel trends in fashion in “Panta=loons” with characters that sport 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.