Jessie Willcox Smith is one of the greatest students of the famous artist and art teacher, Howard Pyle. She was born in Philadelphia and she later attended School of Design for Women (today Moore College of Art and Design). She also enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and studied under Thomas Eakins. She started to work at the Ladies Home Journal in the production department and remained there for the next 5 years.
It was then that she went to take classes under Howard Pyle at both Drexel and Brandywine schools. Her art reflects that she took what Pyle taught her to heart. She would pick a subject, study it thoroughly and then paint the areas that she was most familiar with so that the subject would come to life in the paintings.
Jessie Willcox Smith is perhaps best known for her ability to paint children. Early in her career, she studied the inner world of the child and she came to understand it thoroughly. She put her knowledge to work by painting and illustrating children’s books. She also did illustration for magazines, notably hundreds of Good Housekeeping covers. Smith also illustrated Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Heidi by Johanna Spyri.
Jessie Willcox Smith was the second woman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of Society of Illustrators and there have been only seven women since. Jessie Willcox Smith has been compared to Mary Cassatt, the American Impressionist who also captured children in a special way.