Sarah Stilwell Weber cover illustration for "Collier's Weekly" (1914): rare beautifully frame antique


IMAGE TITLE: The Flower Girl
    Sara Stilwell Weber
    Collier’s - The National Weekly

    May 9, 1914 Issue

    Image Size: H 15.00” x W 11.00”
    Matted & Framed:  H 22.00” x W 18.00”
    Framed Price: $300.00  
    Packaging and shipping approximately $25.00 

In 1902, SS received a commission from Century Magazine to illustrate Josephine Daskin's poem, "Christmas Hymn of Children." The request was for an image conveying the mood of the poem and a graphic to embellish the text. Readers of Collier’s June issue did not know they were viewing an artistic transformation. In the halftone B&W lithograph that appears in this magazine, the artist has dropped the wooden form that defined her work in 1898. In its place, she is exploring the inner life of her subjects. This was, of course, what Pyle had encouraged her to do.

The following year she proved she had completed the transformation of her art and mastered Pyle’s approach. She did this in a pictorial essay which appeared in St. Nicholas’s December 1903 issue. The magazine’s pace-setting editor, Mary Mapes Dodge, published half a dozen of SS’s drawings in a piece called “Happy Days.” In these pictures, SS softened her compositions and highlighted her characters.

1904 was, as we now say, a breakout year for Sarah Stilwell. Her connection with Mary Mapes Dodge strengthened as she completed a second commission, this one to illustrate a new issue in Dodge’s Rhymes and Jingle series.

There and thereafter, SS’s images reflect the styles of her art school colleagues (Anna Whelan and Ethyl Betts and Ellen Bernard Thompson) and her artist friends at the Plastic Club in Philadelphia (notably Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Elenore Plaisted Abbott). "Design” becomes a common descriptor in discussions of her work. She is frequently complimented for her interpretation of the “Art Nouveau” trend that was influential in the early decades of the 20th century. These characteristics of her mature style reflect the cross-pollinations that were constantly occurring in the community of artists Howard Pyle gathered around him in the last years of the 19th century and first years of the 20th century.

It is not commonly noticed that SS’s art began to divide into two styles around 1910. This may owe something to her marriage to Herbert Weber, which probably took place in 1908. In 1909, the Webers had a daughter they named Jane. SSW focused one branch of her art on children, mostly little girls like her daughter, whom she portrayed playing, exploring, and having fun.

This 1914 Collier’s cover is an excellent example of “the other branch” of Sarah Stilwell Weber’s art. This branch featured magically beautiful women, who the artist pictured as fairies, fairy tale princesses, fairy god mothers, mermaids, and ingénues. While her illustrations of children of playing tended to appear on covers of The Saturday Evening Post, her illustrations magical women and ingénues tended to appear on covers of Collier’s. SSW is a storyteller in both of her artistic personalities. We love the characters she portrays, because she captures their vivaciousness and warmth.


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