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  Elizabeth Shippen Green - signature
Black and White ImageS
#5 has Green art.

Elizabeth Shippen Green - Red Rose Girls coverI just finished reading The Red Rose Girls by Alice A. Carter. "Bunny" Carter is also the author of The Art of National Geographic. She's an art professor at nearby San Jose State College and the daughter of art historians Ben and Jane Eisenstat who lived a few miles from me when I originally wrote this in 2000. The Red Rose Girls documents the lives of artists Elizabeth Shippen Green, Jessie Willcox Smith and Violet Oakley (that's Oakley's art on the cover at left).

The three women met in Howard Pyle's illustration class. Green and Smith were charter members from 1894 and Oakley started in 1897. The women spent nearly 15 years of their professional and domestic lives together in a shared home/studio. Their early acquisition of a property called The Red Rose Inn gave them a name and Ms Carter a title for her book. It's a fascinating and thought-provoking read - the story of women and art and friendship in a changing society. It should be available at your local bookstore or check it out at your local library.

Elizabeth Shippen Green - photo

Elizabeth Shippen Green - "Modern Pen Drawing" illustrationElizabeth Shippen Green was born in Philadelphia in 1871. Other artists born within a year of her were F.R. Gruger, Orson Lowell, Eric Pape, Maxfield Parrish, Henry Reuterdahl, Charles Robinson and W.H. Robinson. Her father, Jasper Green, had been an artist/illustrator and encouraged her choice of careers. At 17, she began submitting illustrations to local newspapers and magazines. At 18, she enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, doing her assignments both scholastic and professional from a makeshift studio in her bedroom. At 23, she was a professional fashion illustrator for the Ladies' Home Journal and one of the forty applicants accepted for Howard Pyle's first class in illustration at the Drexel Institute of Arts and Sciences.

It was there she met Jessie Willcox Smith and, in 1897, Violet Oakley. Smith and Green joined Oakley in her apartment studio that year. Oakley and Smith illustrated an edition of Evangeline that year. Green and Smith would collaborate on several early projects including a 1902 calendar for Bryn Mawr College and another calendar, later a 1903 book titled The Book of the Child, featuring illustrations of children

Elizabeth Shippen Green - Within four years, Green had worked for such well-known magazines as St. Nicholas (an 1898 illustration is at right) and The Saturday Evening Post. And her illustration above left (from the Post) was featured in the 1901 publication of The Studio, Modern Pen Drawings European and American - one of only 27 American illustrators so honored.

The studio she shared with Smith and Oakley was soon outgrown and the women rented a large, English-style house and other buildings on a rural 200 acre estate called The Red Rose Inn. That same year, just one month shy of her 30th birthday, she signed an exclusive contract (as did Pyle and Edwin Austin Abbey) with Harper's Magazine for whom she would work for the next 23 years.


Elizabeth Shippen Green - Harpers 1902Elizabeth Shippen Green - Harpers 1903This exclusivity may sound like a restraint today, but Harper's published such a variety of stories and was at the forefront of quality color printing that Green was wonderfully situated to spend as much or as little time painting as she wanted. I don't know if she had any say in the types of material she illustrated, but the images at left (1902) and right (1903) seem to indicate a reasonable range of subjects.

The books in the case behind the child at right highlight a major difference between what might be found in a home, or perhaps even a child's library 100 years ago vs today. Included are: Pyle's Wonder Clock and Twilight Land, Hawthorne's Wonder Book, Kenneth Grahame's Dream Days (illustrated by Parrish), The Comedies of Shakespeare (with the Abbey illustrations), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Blessed Damozel, Aucassin and Nicolette, and even the two volume Le Morte d'Arthur with the Beardsley illustrations.

After five years at the Red Rose Inn, the women moved in 1906 to a multi-dwelling setting they dubbed Cogslea (Cozens, Oakley, Green, Smith - Cozens being Henrietta Cozens who functioned as the household manager allowing the three artists to paint). Most issues of Harper's during the decade featured her work, quite often on the coveted color pages. She was often called upon to delineate stories featuring children and she did so with great sensitivity and aplomb. More often she painted a wide range of topics including potboilers and romances and displayed a flair for the dramatic and exotic that demonstrated the attention she had paid in Pyle's classroom.

Her penchant for accumulating large quantities of clippings which she carefully filed must have been an enormous help when she was asked to paint some of the unusual subjects that are found in her work.

Elizabeth Shippen Green - The Navarrese Elizabeth Shippen Green - Tapestries of Twilight Elizabeth Shippen Green - Beauty and the Jacobin
The Navarrese
1907
Tapestries of Twilight
1911
Beauty & the Jacobin
1912

Elizabeth Shippen Green - Harpers 1918In 1911, Green married Huger (pronounced "u-gee") Elliott and began signing her work Elizabeth Shippen Green Elliott or simply ESGE in a manner very reminiscent of Howard Pyle's "Pyle". She left her friends at Cogslea and tried to add wife and homemaker to her accomplishments. After a somewhat rocky start, she managed quite well. Fewer issues of Harper's featured her work, but I believe that was more a sign of the times - there were simply fewer illustrations in each issue. At left is the frontispiece for the April 1918 Harper's issue.

Her work for Harper's was also compiled into many books as the serialized stories were recycled into the more permanent medium. Old Country House (1902), The Book of the Child (1903), Castle Comedy (1904), A Very Small Person (1906), The Mansion (1911), The White People (1917). In 1920 she moved back to a house near Cogslea. In 1924 she expanded her market beyond Harper's, which by then was nearly 100% text anyway, illustrating books for Houghton Mifflin, McKay, and Doran. By the end of the 1920's, there was little demand for her work in a marketplace dominated by magazines like Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post featuring the works of Rockwell, Pruett Carter, Cornwell, Edwin Georgi, Rockwell Kent, John Lagatta, Mead Schaeffer and Leyendecker. She faded into a happy retirement as what she described as one of "Helen Hokinson's proper 'club' ladies"1 and died in 1954 at 82.

Again I will recommend to you The Red Rose Girls (Abrams, 2000) by Alice A. Carter - most of the material in this essay is taken from that work. The images, with the exception of the small photo of ESG at the top are from the original pages of Harper's. The photo is taken from The Red Rose Girls (pg. 89) and is from the Archives of American Art.

References

To learn more about Elizabeth Shippen Green, visit Nudelman Fine Illustration or
Denise Ortakales' ESG page, or see:

200 Years of American Illustration Henry C. Pitz, Random House 1977
The Illustrator in America 1880 to 1980 Walt and Roger Reed, Madison Square 1984
American Illustration 1890-1925 Judy L. Larson, Glenbow 1986
1The Red Rose Girls Alice A. Carter, Harry N. Abrams 2000
The Vadeboncoeur Collection of Knowledge Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. 2000
The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS B&W ImageS 5 Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. JVJ Publishing 2010

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This page written, designed & © 2000 by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Updated 2011.

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