The Red Rose Girls: An Uncommon Story of Art and Love

Alice A. Carter, Author ABRAMS $39.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4437-4
Three of the first American women artists to achieve fame and fortune in the Victorian era--Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley--lived unconventional lives marked by a remarkable degree of collaboration. In this fascinating but incomplete study, Carter explores the trio's internecine artistic and romantic relations, sparked during their studies at the renowned Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Smith's idyllic representations of children in her Child's Garden of Verses remain well known. Green's art-nouveau paintings graced the covers of most of the popular magazines of her day, including Collier's and Harper's. Oakley, the youngest of the group, was the first American woman granted serious commissions, including a series of murals for the Pennsylvania State Capitol in 1911. For 17 years, the three committed themselves to each other as ""sympathetic companions"" and artistic collaborators, sharing a studio in Philadelphia and then an estate, the Red Rose Inn, in Villanova, Pa., where another companion, Henrietta Cozens, served as the ""wife"" of the household. As the women's fame grew, the press lauded their accomplished m nage quatre (not considered a disgrace in the days when ""Boston marriages"" were presumed to be asexual). But when Green married at 39 after a seven-year engagement, Oakley's devastation created a scandal and severed the group's artistic partnership. Carter builds a solid foundation but never fully fleshes out the artists or their romantic association, though the exquisite illustrations are worth the price of admission. 115 b&w and 60 color illus. Agent, John Campbell. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 216 pages - 978-0-8109-9068-5
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