Elizabeth Shippen Green
(1871-1954) American Illustrator.
Elizabeth Shippen Green first came to prominence in 1901 when she secured an exclusive contract to produce illustration for Harper's Monthly, though she'd been working in the field for five or six years at the time.
Born in Philadelphia–the first American publishing center–she was inspired by Howard Pyle’s drawings in St. Nicholas, whose first illustrations ran when she was barely of school age. ESG enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, studying under Thomas Eakins (who, like ESG and her fellow future illustrators, made active use of photography in the preparation of painted images; as they would also do, Eakins was already concealing it). Next she traveled to Europe for several years, enriching her education with exposure to Continental museums.
Upon her return to the US, Elizabeth Shippen Green launched a career drawing fashions for catalogs and picking up the odd illustration job for magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, and St. Nicholas. In 1894, she enrolled in Pyle’s class at Drexel Institute, where she met Violet Oakley and Jessie Willcox Smith. Her early efforts in periodicals proved the maxim that good work begets good work. Thus did Green become the first woman staff artist at Harper's Weekly.
She threw in her lot with fast friends Oakley and Smith, and as all three began to build thriving careers they moved in together–along with Henrietta Cozens, a skilled gardener and household manager. The three artists worked in a collaborative environment under the roof of the Red Rose Inn in Villanova, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia) and came to be known the “Red Rose Girls.”
Consult the entries for Violet Oakley and Jessie Willcox Smith for the sexual politics of the Red Rose Girls. Green would live the the most conventional later life of the group, marrying Hugo Elliot, an architecture professor, at the age of 40 in 1911.
ESG's work from Harpers remains to be collated from the bound volumes on our shelves, though I have included just such an image at the top of this post. The Walt Reed Illustration Archive includes a number of her illustrated books, samples from two of which are included here: The Mansion, written by Henry van Dyke, published by Harper & Brothers, 1911; and Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb, published by David McKay Company, 1922. Tales from Shakespeare includes black-and-white line art as well as luminous full color plates, and is regarded as one of her most successful book projects.
Green was the subject of an exhibition at the Library of Congress in 2001 entitled A Petal on the Rose. The show lives on in digital form, featuring work from her work for Harper's, particularly.