Bessie Pease Gutmann, American (1876 - 1960)

Bessie Pease Gutmann

  
Bessie Pease Gutmann (1876–1960) was an American artist and illustrator most noted for her paintings of putti, infants and young children. During the early 1900s Gutmann was considered one of the better-known magazine and book illustrators in the United States. Her artwork was featured on 22 magazine covers such as Woman's Home Companion and McCall's between 1906 and 1920. She also illustrated popular children's books including a notable 1907 edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Although the commercial popularity of Guttman's art declined during World War II, there was renewed interest in her illustrations from collectors by the late 20th century.

Guttman was born Bessie Collins Pease on April 8, 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Horace Collins. After graduating from high school, Gutmann studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. From 1896 to 1898, she attended the The New School's Parsons School of Design, then named the New York School of Art. She also attended Art Students League of New York from 1899 to 1901.

Gutmann initially worked as an independent commercial artist drawing portraits and newspapers advertisements. In 1903, Gutmann gained employment with the publishing firm of Gutmann & Gutmann which specialized in fine art prints. Her first illustration of a children's book, published in 1905, was A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Gutmann illustrated several more books including a notable 1907 version of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Gutmann also created artwork for postcards and calendars, and her art adorned 22 magazine covers for McCall's, Collier's, Woman's Home Companion, and Pictorial Review, among others. Gutmann's greatest recognition came from her series of hand-colored prints which highlighted the innocence of young children. Two of Gutmann's most notable works were A Little Bit of Heaven and The Awakening which both focused on the face and hands of an infant tucked under a blanket. Gutmann's work was popular through the 1920s, but by World War II, interest in her style had declined. Due to failing eyesight, Gutmann retired from drawing in 1947.

In 1906, Gutmann married Hellmuth Gutmann, one of the brothers who co-owned the publishing firm where she was employed. The couple had three children, Alice, Lucille, and John, who became the models for Gutmann's illustrations.
Gutmann died on September 29, 1960 in Centerport, New York at the age of 84.

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