Bessie Pease Gutmann's work was part of the explosion of images of children which flooded the American commercial art market at the beginning of the twentieth century. Gutmann's drawings appeared in illustrated books, on magazine covers, and in advertisements.
Bessie Pease was born on April 8, 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She showed an early interest in art and after high school, she attended the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and the New York School of Art. After training at the Art Student's League of New York from 1896 to 1898, she was invited to join the firm of Gutmann and Gutmann, which specialized in fine art prints and advertisements. She later married Hellmuth Gutmann, one of the owners of the firm. Gutmann often used the couple's three children, Alice, Lucille, and John, as models for her drawings.
Between 1906 and 1922 Gutmann designed twenty-two magazine covers, for publications such as Women's Home Companion and McCalls. She also illustrated many popular children's books, including A Child's Garden of Verse (1905) and Alice in Wonderland (1907). About seventy Gutmann images are known to have been published as postcards. Gutmann's best-known work was her print A Little Bit of Heaven, published by the Balliol Corporation in 1916. A Little Bit of Heaven presents a close-up view of Gutmann's daughter Lucille that allows the viewer to admire the sleeping child's plump cheeks and chubby fingers in intimate detail. In 1926 Gutmann published a similar image of an African-American child, titled My Honey. She also produced a series of images of cherubs, and one of mothers and children together. Eschewing the nostalgic costumes and backgrounds that characterized the work of her closest competitor, JESSIE WILLCOX SMITH, Gutmann focused on rendering the tangible, physical presence of her adorable subjects.
See also: Greenaway, Kate; .
Choppa, Karen. 1998. Bessie Pease Gutmann: Over Fifty Years of Published Art. Lancaster, PA: Schiffer Publishing.
Christie, Victor J. W. 1990. Bessie Pease Gutmann: Her Life and Works. Radnor, PA: Wallace-Homestead.
Higonnet, Anne. 1998. Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood. London: Thames and Hudson.
A. CASSANDRA ALBINSON