Clara Peck, 1901
In the golden age of American magazines, hundreds of artists created images to order—for stories, for advertisements, or for children’s amusement. Some of these artists' names you know: Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, Charles M. Russell.
Clara Elsene Peck was one of their peers. She'd begun art training at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts, and like many students moved east for further study. For over forty years she specialized in images of women and children. She had a strong, sometimes thick line and created energetic compositions; she also did evocative lettering for her book commissions. Her style evoked the English Pre-Raphaelites, and she studied with William Merritt Chase, who helped bring Impressionism to America. Eventually she favored watercolor as a medium, and sold paintings in galleries.
Yet while readers saw the works of many illustrators such as Peck daily, the artists themselves were mostly anonymous. In the 1950s, a dedicated scholar of American illustration located Peck and purchased a large collection of her drawings, which are now in a Canadian museum collection.