Found in the LOC: 25 Elizabeth Shippen Green Images

For today’s Found in the LOC, feast your eyes on over two dozen works by Elizabeth Shippen Green.

Inspired and encouraged as a child by her artist father, the exceptionally talented illustrator was first published in 1889, at age eighteen, and Green’s six decade career included contributions to popular and venerable publications Philadelphia Times, Women’s Home Companion, and the Saturday Evening Post, as well as to Harper’s magazine, with whom she signed an enviable exclusive contract in 1901, at age 30. She was the publication’s first female staff member.

Though Green’s gender was unique in the booming field of illustrators at the time, she was hardly alone: she was part of a growing generation of female artists, and, along with Jessie Willcox Smith and Violet Oakley, was part of a posse known as the Red Rose Girls, named after the inn where they lived and worked together in Philadelphia.

Despite what television producers from Aaron Spelling to Andy Cohen would like you to believe, Green and her contemporaries weren’t prone to back-stabbing or cat-fights. On the contrary, they were known for advocating for one another, helping others who typified that era’s “New Woman,” that is: women who left the kitchen and made it on their own. (This “New Woman” was the foremother of the “career woman” of the eighties and today’s “Liz Lemon” trying to“have it all,” because even a century after Green signed with Harper’s, society still has to label/problematize women who dare do what men do all the time, through all of time.)

Anyway, in celebration of Green’s trailblazing career, I’ve rounded up 25 of the nearly 200 of her images found at the Library of Congress’ website. Some are included simply because they’re gorgeous; others because they’re gothic, a favorite genre of Green’s and some of which remind me mightily of Charles Vess’ work on DC Comics’ Books of Magic series; and others are included simply because of their titles: Removed from the context of the stories they illustrated, some are given new weight against the backdrop of contemporary debates over gender and sex –. I particularly like the ones that appear to invert gender stereotypes, e.g. image #13, “Monsieur Brisson visibly shuddered and paled.” — others are just amusing, like image #22, “I observed it, a new ceiling.” LOL!

But seriously, check ’em out. They’re lovely.

Continue reading

Found in the LOC: 28 Pics from WEB DuBois’ 1899 Show

In 1899, WEB DuBois, a man many of us associate with writing, traveled around America, compiling a collection candid pictures of African Americans living their lives at the turn of the century; these images were then sent oversea to Paris, where they were displayed at the  Exposition Universelle of 1900, under the name “Exhibit of the American Negroes.”

It’s a harsh name, but where similar shows in the past had othered black people, trying to denote their “difference” from white people, DuBois’ show both showed diversity among black people — a revolutionary concept for some people back then and, sadly, today — and exhibited the stunning banality of everyday black life. Of course, we Americans know that in the background there was hideous racism and the ever-present threat of violence, which makes the composure in and of these pictures all the more remarkable.

Here are 28 of the nearly 400 in DuBois’ show; many of these were taken by DuBois collaborator Thomas E. Eskew, and all were shot in and around Atlanta, some, I believe, not far from where I live now… All were found over at the Library of Congress.

(And for more Found in the LOC, click here.)

Continue reading

Found in the LOC: 12 Jessie Willcox Smith Color Plates


The Library of Congress is currently presenting a show of groundbreaking female illustrators and graphic designers in America. Called “Drawn to Purpose,” and up through October of this year, the collection features work by luminaries like fashion illustrator Grace Drayton; Mary Hollock Foote, one of the first women to work as a professional illustrator; and Jackie Ormes, a groundbreaking black female comic book creator behind the serialized story Heartbeats.

And then there’s Jessie Willcox Smith, the exceptional talent who provided countless illustrations for late 19th century and early 20th century magazines — Collier’s, Century and Harper’s, to name a few — and popular books, such as Little Women and A Child’s Book of Country Stories. Perhaps her most famous work, however, are the illustrations Smith provided for the 1916 re-issue of Charles Kinglsey’s fantastical morality tale, The Water-Babies, about a kid who drowns and must reclaim his righteousness to make it back to land.

That said, for this week’s “Found in the LOC,” and to celebrate the Library of Congress’ Drawn to Purpose show, here are a dozen of Smith’s whimsical yet sinister Water Babies water colors, all from 1916. Above, “Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby” and “Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid“.

Ten more AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading

Make FDR’s Four Freedoms a Reality

While weekend postings are rare around these parts, today’s the 77th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech, the president’s 1941 State of the Union speech that gave hope to millions living in the shadow of World War II, inspired generations of civil rights leaders in the decades ahead and which spurred painter Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” quadriptych, each of the four images illustrating life filled with free speech, free worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

With our country’s most sanctified institutions and beliefs under assault, with inequality running rampant and national stress levels through the roof, I’ve included the relevant text of that landmark speech after the jump. May Roosevelt’s word come true some day soon.

Continue reading

Found in the LOC: 23 Great Edward Penfield Pics

Amid all those wonderful old bicycle adverts posted a few “Found in the LOCs” ago, there were a number of images by Edward Penfield, the granddaddy of American graphic design.

It seems unfair to his legacy not to offer his landmark images some more space. After all, Brooklyn-born Penfield popularized posters in the States, played a key role in establishing New Rochelle as an early arts colony  and was art director for Harper’s Weekly during a seminal period in American publishing

So here, in honor of Penfield and the path he forged for future illustrators, and in no particular order, are 23 of his illustrations, all sourced from the Library of Congress, which has a ton of other ones, too.

Some things that caught my eye: similarities between his style and two other artists, contemporary JC Leyendecker and current master Alex Katz; the self-possession of his women; and the sex appeal of his men.

(And for more Found in the LOC, click HERE.)

Continue reading

Found in the LOC: 28 Designs By Art Deco Great Winold Reiss

German-born artist Winold Reiss was enamored by America’s diversity when he arrived here in 1913, at the age of 27, and this interest shows in his work, including his intimate portraits of of Harlem Renaissance leaders and Blackfoot American Indians: vibrant, deco-infused images that eschewed caricature in favor of universal humanity. “To understand life, we cannot have prejudice,” Reiss said.

An optimist through and through, Reiss hoped his art could reshape society at large, leading people toward a more inclusive, more progressive mindset. Reiss believed that by picturing the honor, beauty, and dignity of all peoples, his art could help break down racial prejudices and testify to what Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called the ‘unity of all creation,’” explains the Reiss Partnership, stewards of his work. And it’s this approach that secured Reiss’ legacy as one of the greatest portraitists of the early twentieth century. He died in 1953.

But in addition to his humanistic portraits, the multi-talented creator also designed murals for hot spots like the Apollo Theater, the Hotel St. George, and a massive 14-panel series for Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, and he excelled at interior design, too: Reiss laid out all of New York’s hipper-than-hip Longchamps restaurants in the 1930s, as well as Max Lyman’s joint in Los Angeles.

Some of these art deco-laden conceptions are included below, as are a number of Reiss’ rarely seen wallpaper designs and even a few of his more sociopolitical pieces. They may not have changed the world, but they sure are purdy.

(And for more in the Found in the LOC series, click HERE.)

Continue reading