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Helen Jacobs

 (1888 - 1970)
Helen Jacobs was active/lived in England.  Helen Jacobs is known for children's book illustration, educational book drawing.

Helen Jacobs

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Helen Jacobs
Jacobs, Helen Mary

Helen Mary Jacobs was born in Ilford, Essex, the sister of the writer W.W. Jacobs; she studied art at the West Ham Municipal College. She illustrated children’s books in pen, ink and watercolor. Towards the end of her career she specialized in drawings for educational books.

The artist first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1910. She contributed to annuals such as Playbox, Rainbow and Little Folks, but very soon all the major publishers including Hodder & Stoughton, Ward Lock & SPCK, were commissioning her. 

She also created a series of drawings of Moths for Lord Rothschild. From 1912 she had made enough to move to Winchmore Hill. She wanted to put back into the community that had helped her, so later in life she taught at a primary school in Stoke Newington. She also produced several schoolbooks and primers, but they were in a more basic childlike style for the children to copy. Her passion was painting dogs and cats. 

Source:Peter Nahum at the Leicester Galleries.

Talented in both draughtsmanship and watercolor painting, Helen Jacobs soon established herself as a children’s illustrator.  Though best known for the precision, energy and imagination of her early fairy subjects, she responded well to a variety of commissions; and as a primary teacher, she seemed an ideal interpreter of textbooks and primers.

Helen Jacobs was the daughter of a wharf manager, and half-sister of the popular writer W.W. Jacobs.  Born in Ilford, in Essex, she spent her childhood in Stoke Newington, and studied at the West Ham Municipal College, under Arthur Legge.  From about 1912, she lived at Winchmore Hill.

Jacobs exhibited from 1910, at the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colors and the Dudley Gallery.  It may be assumed that, as a member of the British Watercolor Society, she was also represented in its exhibitions. In addition, she produced a series of drawings of species of moth for the entomologist Lord Rothschild.

However, Jacobs quickly established herself as a children’s book illustrator, working mainly in watercolor and pen and ink. She contributed to annuals (including Pip & Squeak) and periodicals (including The Sunday Fairy), while responding increasingly to commissions from major publishers, most notably Harrap.

In her later years, Jacobs taught at a primary school in Stoke Newington, and turned to illustrating school books and primers.  These included frequent collaborations with her friend Stella Mead (The Open Road series, and other Nisbet publications), and some with Constance M. Martin (particularly the Riverside Readers).

This pedagogic material led to a move away from the precise beauty of her early fairy watercolors to a brighter, bolder graphic style. 

Chris Beetles Gallery

Submitted by Edward P. Bentley, Art Researcher and Collector, Grenville, Michigan

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About  Helen Jacobs

Born:  1888 - Ilford, Essex, England
Died:   1970 - Winchmore Hill, England
Known for:  children's book illustration, educational book drawing