What’s the matter with this picture?

If young women—who should be the most interested in changing this—cling to outmoded and incorrect ideas about the value of women’s art, is there any hope?

Pull up your big girl panties, at Rye Arts Center this month.

I am not going to have the time to write a proper blog. Portland Jetport has been like a morgue for the last few years, but today it’s packed (and therefore slower to clear TSA than normal). America is on the move, and that’s a good thing.

But I’d like to point out a repeated conversation I’ve had this week. It’s been with people of both genders and all ages, but the worrisome part to me is how many young women have told me that it’s not true that you can’t tell men’s and women’s paintings apart. That’s something I mentioned in my talk in Rye, here (scroll down), and in my blog post, here. That was, in some cases, even after they ‘failed’ the test below. They made excuses.

Michelle reading, at Rye Arts Center this month.

There have been many studies worldwide that document this phenomenon. The most exhaustive was done in 2017. It analyzed 1.5 million auction transactions in 45 countries, and found a 47.6% gender discount in prices. The discount was worst (unsurprisingly) in countries with greater overall gender disparity.

My painting pal Chrissy Pahucki questioned whether it was different for plein air painters, so she ran a test among her middle school students. I shared the test with my adult students, and, last I heard, the guesses were in the same range as random chance—around 51.95% correct guesses.

Saran Wrap Cynic, at Rye Arts Center this month.

I can’t take it because I can identify too much of the work, but perhaps you can. Try to avoid looking at the signatures if you can see them.

Here’s the link. I’m curious if a bigger sample will show a different result, but I doubt it.

As for what I can do to change attitudes about the gender pay disparity in painting, I’m at a loss. If young women—who should be the most interested in changing this—cling to outmoded and incorrect ideas about the value of women’s art, is there any hope?

I’m off to teach my workshop in Sedona and boarding in just a few minutes. I’ll revisit this soon, I promise.

In control

Every day, in every way, things are not necessarily getting better.

In Control (Grace and her unicorn), 24X36, is one of the paintings that’s going to Rye Arts Center’s Censored and Poetic: the works of Carol Douglas and Anne de Villemejane, March 2022.

A visitor to my studio recently asked me about the gender disparity in painting. “Eighty percent of art students are women,” I said—and that may be a low estimate. “But 80% of the top cadre of professional painters are men.” That, too, may be a low estimate.

“Why?” she asked. I was stumped for an answer. If I’d thought about it at all, I’d have attributed it to change—women moving up through the atelier system to take their rightful place in the art world. But since the 19th century women have studied and practiced painting with great seriousness. There were more girls in art class when I was young, and the earning disparity didn’t disappear when we came of age.

Michelle Reading, 24X30, is one of the paintings that’s going to Rye Arts Center’s Censored and Poetic: the works of Carol Douglas and Anne de Villemejane, March 2022.

This is not anecdotal. There have been many studies worldwide that document this phenomenon. The most exhaustivewas done in 2017. It analyzed 1.5 million auction transactions in 45 countries, and found a 47.6% gender discount in prices. The discount was worst (unsurprisingly) in countries with greater overall gender disparity.

Do women drop out, practicing art as dedicated amateurs rather than professionals? No; 51% of practicing visual artists are women.

Are women’s paintings somehow more ‘girly,’ and therefore less attractive to buyers? In blind studies (with the artist’s name excised), participants could not guess the gender of the artist. Women’s art sells for less because the signature is feminine. Period.

The Beggar, 36X48, is one of the paintings that’s going to Rye Arts Center’s Censored and Poetic: the works of Carol Douglas and Anne de Villemejane, March 2022.

My childhood chum Cynthia Cadwell Pacheco was a professional ballet dancer. While she was traveling around the world, her mother regaled me with stories of the culture of submission, abuse and body-shaming that the corps de ballet were subject to.

It’s a miserable career choice for women, but, ironically, serious ballet used to be a women-led art form. That was before it spun money. Today, it’s a multi-billion-dollar business. As it has grown in economic importance, women have been pushed out of leadership. Today’s companies are run by men, the work is choreographed by men, the jurors are men, and the big bucks go to men. Let that be a lesson to you if you believe that every day, in every way, we’re getting better and better.

“Despite the fact that girls outnumber boys 20 to one and pay most of the fees in ballet schools, and despite the audience and donor base being 70% women, female artistic directors are paid 68 percent of what their male counterparts earn,” wrote Elizabeth Yntema.

Saran Wrap Cynic, 20X24, is one of the paintings that’s going to Rye Arts Center’s Censored and Poetic: the works of Carol Douglas and Anne de Villemejane, March 2022.

Our culture actively discourages boys from dancing. That’s foolish and unfair, and it leads to a tremendous imbalance in dance classes. If there is a boy at all, he won’t lack for principal roles, no matter how execrably he dances; the great classical ballets require male dancers. No wonder boys in the dance world grow up thinking they’re the cock of the walk.

No other legal American industry is as gender-skewed as ballet, but the visual arts do share some of its daft values. You only have to compare the career of Lois Dodd with her contemporaries to see that.

Identifying the problem is only the first step. What can we do about it? Young artists might choose a gender-neutral nom de pinceau, but that perpetuates the problem. Women’s role in the arts will only be as strong as women’s role in the greater culture. I’m old enough to have seen some remarkable changes in society, but I’m also alive to the very real risk that we can move backwards, just as the dance world has.

The problem is us, not them

The jaw of a long-dead artist tells us much more than just the pigment she used.
Page from a French Book of Hours, c. 1410-15.
Yesterday, several readers sent me this wonderful story of an anonymous medieval religieuse with lapis lazuli (ultramarine pigment) in her dental tartar. Lapis, in the Middle Ages, was as pricey as gold, so its presence in her teeth meant she was a top artisan of her time.
The researchers contacted many scientists, historians, and researchers for help in explaining the mineral’s presence. Some didn’t believe a woman scribe could be skilled enough to be trusted with lapis. “One suggested to [Christina] Warinner that this woman came into contact with ultramarine because she was simply the cleaning lady,” wrote Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic.
Abbess praying to the Virgin Mary, from The Shaftesbury Psalter, c. 1130-40. The client for this book was a woman. Courtesy of the British Museum
We know women were employed as scribes in the Middle Ages, and that convents and monasteries both had a healthy trade in books, sometimes subcontracting to each other. Religious women were as literate as their male counterparts. To history buffs, this discovery hardly overturns our understanding of the medieval economy.
We’re living in a period where women artists are being rediscovered at a rapid pace. But how were they lost in the first place? Consider, for a moment, les trois grandes damesof Impressionism: Mary CassattMarie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot. They were well-known in their lifetimes; why must they be rediscovered today?
Women in a counting house, from Cuttings from a Latin prose treatise on the Seven Vices, c. 1400. Office work was done by both sexes and women were expected to work alongside their husbands in business or trade. Courtesy of the British Museum
For most of us, living history stops with our grandparents. We assume that life before them was the same or worse. Deep down, we all believe in progress. But in terms of gender relationships, the post-war era was in many ways unique. For example, it’s when women married very young, far younger than their 1890s counterparts. Progress slides along, but fitfully.
What do we think we know about the Middle Ages? To misquote Thomas Hobbes: “no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Nuns processing to Mass, fromCollection of moral tracts, c 1290, Courtesy of the British Museum
Instead, we see the jaw of a woman who has comfortably reached middle age with perfect teeth, despite her tartar buildup.
Somehow, that speck of pigment on her teeth makes her an individual. “Based on the distribution of the pigment in her mouth, we concluded that the most likely scenario was that she was herself painting with the pigment and licking the end of the brush while painting,” said study co-author Monica Tromp.
“I used to put the (rinsed) water color brush in my mouth to shape it to a point,” one artist wrote to me. It made her feel a sort of kinship with this long-dead artist. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Old Fruits

Long before ecofeminism was an idea, these women produced clear-eyed, scientific observations of nature.
Cerise de Montmorency cherry (Prunus avium), with specimen originating in Linden, Maryland; 1910, watercolor by Deborah Griscom Passmore, courtesy USDA
I would never know about the US Department of Agriculture’s Pomological Watercolor Collection if it weren’t for an artist and activist named Parker Higgins. Starting around 2015, he began investigating why the USDA kept their digitized collection behind a paywall. He found that the USDA had miscalculated when entering the rough-and-tumble market of digital data, spending $300,000 to earn just $600 in fees. He then pushed public officials to release the pictures to the public for free.
The watercolors would have remained unknown, except that Higgins then taught himself to program enough to build a twitter bot. Follow @pomological, and you can see a new Old Fruit Picture every three hours.
Diseased Lisbon lemon (Citrus limon); 1910, watercolor by Elsie Lower Pomeroy, courtesy USDA
The USDA’s Pomological Collection was cutting edge long before Higgins took it up. At a time when women were barely represented in the workforce, they were the driving force behind this work.
Women were just beginning to attend art school in the latter half of the 19th century. For most of them, a career like Mary Cassatt’s was out of the question. Working as a government illustrator was an acceptable career choice. About a third of the USDA’s pomological artists were women, and just three of them were responsible for more than half the collection: Deborah Griscom PassmoreAmanda Almira Newton, and Mary Daisy Arnold.
Japanese persimmon (variety Hachiya); 1915, watercolor by Amanda Newton, courtesy USDA
The paintings were mostly produced in the thirty-year span from 1886 to 1916. They were intended for use as illustrations in USDA publications directed toward farmers. This was a time of high immigration and rapid growth westward; ten states joined the Union in that thirty-year period. Rapidly-expanding agriculture went along with rapidly-expanding population. The hunt was on for fruits that could endure shipping, and farmers worked with the USDA to test and then grow these cultivars. The artists were sent samples of these fruits from farmers across the nation. They then made scientifically-accurate illustrations for USDA publications and records. The majority of these cultivars no longer exist.
Deborah Griscom Passmore was the daughter of a Quaker farmer from Delaware County, PA. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and then went on to Europe. Passmore was hired by the USDA in 1892, and her talents were quickly recognized. Within a year she was head of the department, which at the time had fifty artists attached to it. One of her first tasks was to paint exhibits for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. She worked for the USDA for 19 years, and was responsible for a fifth of its 7500 paintings.
Dunlap variety of strawberries (Fragaria species), with specimen originating in Geneva, New York; 1912, watercolor by Mary Daisy Arnold, courtesy USDA
Less is known about the life of Amanda A. Newton. She was the granddaughter of Isaac Newton, the first commissioner of the USDA, who died when she was a child. She introduced the innovation of wax models of fruit to the survey, making about 300 specimens herself. Mary Daisy Arnold’s origins are similarly obscure, but she was known to have attended art school in New York. When she wasn’t painting fruit for the USDA, she painted landscapes in oils.
Elsie Lower Pomeroy was the one female USDA illustrator who went on to an independent painting practice. Born in New Castle, PA, she was raised in Washington and attended the Corcoran School of Art. She worked in the Washington USDA office, married a staff pomologist and moved with him to Riverside, CA. There, she became involved in the California Realism movement.
And one apple, since they comprise the majority of the collection: Rimmer Apple, with specimen originating in Cedar Grove, Orange County, North Carolina; 1901, watercolor by Deborah Griscom Passmore, courtesy USDA
19th century women watercolorists have an unjust reputation for anemic, ‘maidenly’ work, but there is nothing hesitant about these watercolors. They are careful technical renderings with big, juicy color. From a time long before ecofeminism was an idea, they are clear-eyed observations of nature.

Devastatingly resistible men and the stupid things they say

The sexualization of a young, competent competitor is a way to put that woman in her ‘proper’ place.
Athabasca Glacier, by Carol L. Douglas

“She’s great,” a woman told me about a young woman artist. “Excellent drafting, fantastic brushwork. But, actually, I think she has more ground to cover before she hits her full potential.” It was an admiring, supportive, incisive comment.

“Nice ass,” said one of her male peers.
The vast majority of the men I know in the art world are kind and decent fellows. But not all. (Sadly, the offenders are unlikely to read this blog.) Consider the artist who importunes a woman his daughter’s age for a date, while he has a long-standing partner at home. Or the pair who mutter suggestive comments about another artist to each other while sitting right next to an older lady. (As women of a certain age know, with wrinkles and grey hair comes a magic cloak of invisibility.)
Parker Dinghy, by Carol L. Douglas
When I was young, I put on a stiff face and ignored cat-calling. After all, women are trained to be polite. I wish I had said something instead. It wasn’t until my own daughters reached that age that I realized how corrosive it is. But, for some reason, young women generally don’t have the power to control the situation. “It’s not important,” they tell me, or “It happens everywhere. Might as well get used to it.”
I talked with another young woman artist yesterday. She’s changed her mind about it. “I’ve resolved to call them out,” she told me. I wish her well. More young women should do so.
Three Graces, by Carol L. Douglas. Courtesy Camden Falls Gallery.
The sexualization of a young, competent competitor is a way to put that woman in her ‘proper’ place. If a man objectifies her, he can ignore the fact that she can paint circles around him. The problem is his, not hers, but it’s still offensive and it coarsens the community.
“It’s a thin veneer of bravado painted over a thick layer of insecurity,” commented another woman artist, comparing that behavior to pack mentality. “These men are not going to take down an older woman, so they hunt the young one instead.”
In the old days of chaperones, a man couldn’t get past an older woman and her sharp stick to make lewd comments. A young woman had the weight of an alpha female on her side. We artists travel alone for the most part, putting us all outside our comfort zones. 
Lake Moraine, by Carol L. Douglas
I have some advice for the men who act like this: get over yourself. You’re not devastatingly irresistible. You’re not funny, either. You’d do your career far more good by shutting up and being a gentleman. That way, even though your painting is lousy, you’ll be remembered as a nice guy.
Young women: bear in mind that these old gaffers feel threatened by you. But don’t let them objectify you. Call them out.
Old men: that could be your daughter. Don’t let that kind of thing pass.
Old women: nobody expects a grandmother to have a sharp right hook.

Elegy for a house

I have no idea what the next chapter in this house’s history will be, but for many years it was a haven for New York plein airpainters.
Kaaterskill Falls, by Carol L. Douglas

If the legal system creaks along as it should, an important property will pass out of the plein airworld today. This is Jamie Williams Grossman’s home in Palenville, NY. Jamie is married to New York State Supreme Court Justice Victor G. Grossman. Vic is required to live in his district, which covers Westchester and four other counties. When it came time for them to downsize, it was the Catskill house that had to go.

The house is a long, open structure, originally built as a barn for the farm across the road. Its conversion was top notch—steel stairs, a large open kitchen, and pleasant, airy rooms. The foundation rested on bedrock which intruded poetically into the basement. Along one side of this lower level, Jamie built a long, sunny studio. When she was in residence, so too were her birds.
Clouds over the Catskills, by Carol L. Douglas
To get there, you turned off a local road and dropped sharply down a gravel lane that seemed to peter out in scrub. Even when you knew where you were going, it was easy to miss.
The property is dotted with waterfalls. Some are seasonal. If you felt so inclined, you could hike to one of the more remote ones. The most beautiful passed right under the driveway. Dropping rapidly down from the road, it broke and crashed on huge granite boulders before burbling away in a small stream. I once dropped a palette knife into the water. A year later, Jamie found and returned it, after inscribing it with my name so I wouldn’t lose it again.
Kaaterskill Creek, by Carol L. Douglas
A meadow sits below the house, surrounded on all sides by woods. A venerable old tree crabs Wyeth-like to the sky, skirted by an old stone wall. There was never a shortage of material, but the property itself wasn’t the reason most painters came to stay with Jamie. Her house was minutes away from some of the most storied sites of Hudson River School painting: Platte Clove, Kaaterskill Falls, North-South Lake, and the Pine Orchard, where the Catskill Mountain House once stood. Drive a few minutes more and you were at Cedar Grove, the home and studio of painter Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School. Cross over the river and you were at Olana, the estate of Frederic Edwin Church.
I had the good fortune to be invited back many times. I was not alone. There are always fine artists around when I visited. Sometimes we spent as much time tweaking our gear as painting. It was on a hike up Kaaterskill Falls that Johanne Morin showed me her super-lightweight aluminum easel, which I then copied and have used ever since.
Olana overlook, by Carol L. Douglas
There were men among the painters who gathered there, of course. But the group always seemed weighted toward women. This was the first true sorority of serious, professional women painters I ever knew. I met lifelong friends in Jamie’s creek, and cemented relationships over her table.
I’ll still paint in that area, and I’ll still stop and see Jamie no matter where she is, but it’s the end of an important era in the New York plein air community. Jamie and Vic, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your years and years of hospitality and support.

The hardest working women in show business

To the ramparts, woman! The future of women artists rests in part with you!

My first event this spring is Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta, so I’m getting into a New Mexico kind of mood. This pasture sketch is from my last trip there.
Last night I had a brief chat with my pal Mary Byrom. I want to go down to draw in Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, NH. Strawbery Banke is unlike other living history museums in that it is a real neighborhood of real houses, restored where they originally stood. It dates back to 1630, when Captain Walter Neale chose the area to build a settlement. It was saved from the wrecking ball of 1950s urban renewal by historic preservationists and opened as a museum in 1965. It has unadorned simplicity and solid shapes that make you itch to draw.
Mary lives and works in southern Maine, so Portsmouth is her stomping ground. She recently did some delightful pen-and-wash sketches of Strawbery Banke. When she put them on Facebook, I asked her if she’d be game to join me. “I have to wait for this foot to heal,” I said.
Last night she texted to see how I was doing. I’m off to Damariscotta this morning to have the stitches removed and the foot released from its bandages. As of now I can’t do any significant walking. I don’t know what the doctor is going to tell me, or whether I’m going to have the other foot operated on immediately. It’s frustrating to watch my friend doing such lovely work from the vantage point of my couch. I’m heartily sick of my couch.
The Rio Grande in New Mexico, by Carol L. Douglas
Mary told me she’s teaching three classes right now. I whistled in admiration. The last time I did that was in 2008. I was ten years younger then.
That doesn’t sound so hard, but it is really a lot of work for the solo practitioner, who must advertise, prep, teach and clean up on her own. Every hour spent teaching means at least an hour of preparation.
Meanwhile, Mary’s been out doing small pen-and-wash sketches all winter. They grow steadily more wonderful. All of which points out an essential principle of painting: if you want to improve, you have to keep doing it. That’s true for beginners and it’s equally true for old pros like Mary.
Study at Ghost Ranch, by Carol L. Douglas
Bobbi Heath and Poppy Balser are two other women artists I’m tight with. I know something about their day-to-day life. Neither of them is resting on their laurels, either. Both juggle the day-to-day business of an art career with the day-to-day business of living, while simultaneously driving themselves to improve and broaden their skills.
I’ve written hereherehereherehere (and probably elsewhere as well) about the fabulous misogyny of the art world. If that ship is righted—and it will be—it will be because women artists like Mary, Poppy, and Bobbi have worked so long and so hard to produce work. Their tireless efforts will open the door for younger women artists to be taken seriously right out of the gate.
Around the Bend, by Carol L. Douglas. New Mexico is surprisingly green in April.
Meanwhile, I’m trapped on the couch with a damn dicky foot. I realize it’s only been two weeks, but it feels like an eternity since I last had a brush in my hand. To the ramparts, Carol! The future rests with you!
It’s about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, at Rye Art Center, or at Genesee Valley this summer.

Young dealers, more women

Is the gender gap in the art world closing? Not so you’d notice, but here’s a nugget of good news.

Couple, Carol L. Douglas

I’ve written many times about gender issues in the art world.* I grew up at a time when there were no great women artist models. Historical figures like Artemisia Gentileschi had been expunged from the record. Abstract-Expressionism, which reigned supreme in the post-war era, was almost wholly a bad-boy phenomenon. I’m still waiting to see the inequality addressed. I’ll probably die waiting.

If you can stand the dissing of ‘white straight males,’ a recent essay in Artsy has a small bit of good news buried in it: young galleries are more likely to be run by women, and women-run galleries are slightly more likely to show work by women artists.
The Joker, Carol L. Douglas
Their sample is narrow: the 200 or so galleries that showed at Art Baselin Miami Beach. Their graphing makes one wonder if they passed the sixth grade, although it looks very pretty. 
Among galleries under ten years old represented at Miami, almost half were run by women. Younger galleries and women gallerists are slightly better at selling work than their male counterparts. Younger male-run galleries had 32% female artists, compared with just 23% at galleries more than 20 years old. The younger female-run galleries had 41% female artists; at the older female-run galleries, the share of female artists was 28%.
Moreover, there was better representation for women in North American galleries (36% to 64%) than in supposedly-enlightened Europe (30%-70%), and there were proportionally more American women dealers than European women dealers.
The Laborer Resting, Carol L. Douglas
But even there, the differences are minor; male dealers at the high-end of the market outnumber women dealers 3 to 1. At the top end of the market, the money is overwhelmingly male. “When you get to the $10 million, $20 million levels, that’s where the disparity comes…when that amount of money is at stake, politics go out the window,” said London dealer Pilar Corrias.
Another industry that’s famous for mouthing feminist platitudes but practicing gender bias is Hollywood. According to the Los Angeles Times, only 1.9% of directors of the top-grossing 100 films of 2013 and 2014 were women. “Of 25 Paramount Pictures films that have been announced through 2018, not a single one has a women director attached, in a tally first noted by The Wrap. The same is true of the 22 Twentieth Century Fox films that have been announced…”
Saran Wrap Cynic, by Carol L. Douglas
And then there’s Congress, where only 19% of lawmakers are female, a percentage that didn’t change much in the last election.
The biggest news story of 2017 has been #metoo. One thing it ought to tell us is that where there’s huge gender disparity, there’s also sex abuse. Where there’s endless sexualization of women’s images, there’s also abuse, and the art world for the last two hundred years has been littered with insipid, pulchritudinous images of women.
The 19th and 20th century art scenes were famous for abusive, egotistical male ‘geniuses.’ As Germaine Greer said about the Pre-Raphaelites, “If they hadn’t had sex with their models, they wanted you to think they had.”

* Here, here, here, here, here, and probably elsewhere as well.

Why do you do what you do?

It is possible to be a successful woman artist and mother, if one has an exceptional husband, good time-management skills, and an iron will.
Daddy’s little helper, 2015, Carol L. Douglas
Yesterday I was reveling in the simplicity of my job. I had planned no deep thinking; it would be a day alone with my brushes.
That never works. “Why do you do what you do?” asked a regular reader.
The easy answer is that it’s the only thing I know how to do. A little honesty compels me to admit that this isn’t entirely true. I can write. I could retire if I want. Clearly, something besides necessity drives me.
In fact, my reader sensed that. “Why do you teach, travel all over the place, produce as much work as you do?” she continued. “Is working at that pace a habit, or something deeper?”
Maternité, 1890, Mary Cassatt. Cassatt, the greatest painter of the mother-child bond, had no children of her own.
Yes, I was raised to work hard, and it’s an ingrained habit. Still, I do take time off. A chance conversation with a Mennonite contractor years ago turned me into a Sabbatarian. He explained what a tremendous gift a regularly-scheduled Sabbath day was. There are a few weekends a year I can’t take off, but in general, you’ll find me working six days and resting on the seventh.
I like painting and I like being on the road. I like the challenge of sizing up new places and trying to reformat them to a 12X16 canvas.
But mostly, I work like this because I can. It’s a pleasure and a shock to be free of day-to-day responsibility for others. Yesterday, I mentioned a Tracey Eminquote about parenting. Here it is in full:
I would have been either 100% mother or 100% artist. I’m not flaky and I don’t compromise. Having children and being a mother… It would be a compromise to be an artist at the same time. I know some women can. But that’s not the kind of artist I aspire to be. There are good artists that have children. Of course there are. They are called men. It’s hard for women. It’s really difficult, they are emotionally torn. It’s hard enough for me with my cat.
When I first started painting full time, another woman artist told me much the same thing. The evidence supported her statement. Most artists (of either gender) in our circle were childless. Those with children also had wives who supported both their family and their art careers.
Mutter mit Jungen, 1933, Käthe Kollwitz. Kollwitz is an exception to rule that says mothers can’t make good artists.
That realization came close to derailing me. I was struggling to make enough time for my kids and art, but the historical reality seemed to be that women with children would always be second-rate painters.
I’m glad I didn’t learn that before the kids were irrevocable. They’re certainly the best work I’ve ever done.
Now that I’m beyond child-care, I think it’s a case where history is not necessarily destiny. Gender roles have changed tremendously in the last century. It is possible for a woman to combine competent child-rearing and any career, provided she has an exceptional husband, good time-management skills, and an iron will.
But the question my reader asked is an important one. There are many easier ways to live. Why do we do what we do?

Your favorite artist you can’t remember

Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.

Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.
If you were raised in the United States, the odds are overwhelming that you had at least one Little Golden Book while growing up. These books were introduced in 1942 as a joint project of Simon & Shuster and Western Publishing. The idea was to do big runs of color pages so the books could be sold cheaply. They premiered with a cover price of a quarter, which rose to 29¢ in 1962. That was cheap enough for nearly everyone, which made them ubiquitous, and extremely important. With more than two billion sold, they have been “baby’s first book” for many American children.
Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.

Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.
Eloise Margaret Burns Wilkin has been called “the soul of Little Golden Books.” Born in 1904 in Rochester, Wilkin moved downstate at age 2. She returned to Rochester to attend the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute, now known as Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). This school has a long tradition of excellence in art instruction.
After earning an Art and Illustration degree in 1923, Wilkin opened a studio with her friend Joan Esley in Rochester. Struggling to find work, the pair moved to New York City. A week later, Wilkin was hired to illustrate The Shining Hours by Mary Meek Atkeson.
Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.

Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.
In 1930, Wilkin put her career on hold to marry. She, her husband and their four kids lived in Canandaigua, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Her house there made cameo appearances in many of her books.
In 1944, Wilkin signed an exclusive contract with Simon & Shuster. This required her to illustrate three Little Golden Books each year. She had it all—wife, mother, career.
Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.

Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.
In an interview with RIT’s University News, Wilkin’s son Sidney recollected his mother working long, long days as she approached her deadline. “We would run in and out of the house by her studio and she would stop us, show us something and ask if we liked it.”
In 1974, Wilkin revised "My Little Golden Book about God" to reflect our multicultural reality

In 1974, Wilkin revised “My Little Golden Book about God” to reflect our multicultural reality
Eloise Wilkin will never be remembered as a great artist, but her warm, beautifully-rendered pencil drawings had a profound influence on generations of American children. If you pored over books as a child, she probably had a hand in shaping your visual aesthetic.
Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.

Cover art by Eloise Wilkin.
Wilkin illustrated more than 110 books, including 50 Little Golden Books. She died of cancer in Brighton, New York at the age of 83.