When each heart gives out its best,
Then the talk is full of zest:
Light your fire and never fear,
Life was made for love and cheer.
(Henry Van Dyke, “Inscriptions for a Friend’s House”)
When American illustrator Elizabeth Shippen Green created a watercolor painting to accompany Henry Van Dyke’s “Inscriptions for a Friend’s House,” she had the perfect subject matter: her own life. Green and her two close friends and fellow artists, Jessie Willcox Smith and Violet Oakley are featured, surrounded by friends and family on the grounds of the Red Rose Inn. The trio of artists lived and worked together there for a time, and were known as “The Red Rose Girls.” Their talent and success as artists during America’s golden age of illustration from 1880 to 1920 set these women apart in a male-dominated field.
As April begins, and we welcome both spring and National Poetry Month, it seems only fitting to share the vibrant and colorful work created by Green and her contemporaries, often used to accompany poems and stories published in books and illustrated magazines.
More than four thousand pieces of original illustration art by over two hundred artists, including examples by all of the Red Rose Girls, make up the Cabinet of American Illustration. The collection was established in the 1930s for the Library of Congress by William Patten, art editor of Harper’s Monthly during the 1880s and 1890s, to capture this important era in American art.
Green herself donated over one hundred of her illustrations to the Cabinet at Patten’s request, and so I will leave you with one more. Green captured the world as seen through the eyes of a child, as she illustrated Josephine Preston Peabody’s “The Journey”:
I never saw the hills so far
And blue, the way the pictures are;
And flowers, flowers growing thick,
But not a one for me to pick!
The land was running from the train,
All blurry through the window-pane.
(Josephine Preston Peabody, “The Journey”)
- View the illustrations in the Cabinet of American Illustration in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, including those by Elizabeth Shippen Green.
- Explore the online exhibit A Petal from the Rose: Illustrations by Elizabeth Shippen Green and The Water-Babies: Illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith.
- Visit the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center for news and resources related to poetry.