Elizabeth Shippen Green

Elizabeth Shippen GreenSometimes who we encounter as a teacher can have a dramatic effect on our development as an artist, and even who we are as a person. Elizabeth Shippen Green encountered Howard Pyle.

Green began her study of art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, drawing from plaster casts of classical sculpture for a year before moving on to life drawing. Among her teachers there were such notable artists and teachers as Thomas Anshutz, Robert Vonnoh and Thomas Eakins.

Even before graduating from the Academy she had begun working as an illustrator in Philadelphia, illustrating newspaper articles and then creating advertising illustrations for the large Strawbridge and Clothier department store.

After graduating she decided to continue her study and enrolled in Howard Pyle’s illustration classes at Drexel. (The Academy had actually declined Pyle’s offer to teach there, snobbishly refusing to have classes in illustration at the fine arts school.) Green had learned some of the technical side of illustration, which had to be prepared for reproduction by engravers, from her father, Jasper Green, who was a former Academy student and an artist/correspondent for Harper’s during the Civil War.

Under Pyle’s tutelage Elizabeth Shippen Green developed into a superb illustrator. It was also at Pyle’s classes that she met Jessie Wilcox Smith, and Violet Oakley. The three young women were to become lifelong friends and would spend much of their lives sharing studios at Cogslea and The Red Rose Inn, both outside of Philadelphia. All three would achieve a striking degree of success in the overwhelming male profession of illustration. (Pyle was notable for the serious training of women illustrators at a time when women were thought of as likely to drop their interest in such things when they found a husband and thus their “proper place” in life.)

Green worked in charcoal, a medium favored for drawing at the Academy (even to this day), and in pen and ink, creating drawings strongly influenced by her mentor. With the advent of color printing, Green, along with Smith, developed a multimedia approach to illustration. The initial illustration would be a charcoal drawing to which fixative would be applied, allowing for the addition of color with watercolor or thin glazes of oil. Additional layers of charcoal, fixative and color could be added. The result is a beautiful marriage of painting and drawing that carries much of the appeal of both. There is a good description of her working methods here.

Green was also in advance of her contemporary illustrators by being one of the first to utilize the new medium of photography, to which she was introduced at the Academy, to create reference images for her illustrations, something that is now a common practice.

Green eventually married Huger Elliot, a professor of architecture, (signing her later works Elizabeth Shippen Green Elliot) and left the studios she had shared with Smith and Oakley and moved to New England, New York and eventually back to Philadelphia. All the while she continued to produce notable work and left a rich legacy of beautiful images.

I’ll point you to some resources, in particular Paul Giambarba’s wonderful “Elizabeth Shippen Green; An Appreciation” on his consistently excellent blog, 100 Years of Illustration and Design. (See my previous posts about 100 Years of Illustration and Design and Howard Pyle.)

There is also a very good online resource about Green and her work from an exhibition mounted by the Library of Congress in 2001, A Petal From The Rose: Illustrations by Elizabeth Shippen Green.

I will highly recommend a book on the three artists, Green, Smith and Oakley, by Alice A. Carter: The Red Rose Girls : An Uncommon Story of Art and Love. It is a fascinating personal story, an informative look at a key period in American illustration and is, of course, beautifully illustrated.

 
 
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