The following information was submitted in August of 2006 by the American Illustrators Gallery:Anna Whelan Betts, Circa 1878-1952
There is precious little known about Ms. Anna Whelan Betts, and even less about her sister, illustrator Ethel Franklin Betts. What is known is that she was a superb illustrator, a devoted craftsperson, and an art teacher. She first studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy with one of Maxfield Parrish¹s favorite teachers, Robert Vonnoh. After her early studies in Philadelphia, she left for Paris and was tutored by Courtois, an academic painter of some note. She later joined the early illustration classes with Howard Pyle at Drexel Institute upon her return to the United States in the same class as Parrish, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Jessie Willcox Smith. In the summer of 1899, Anna Betts was invited by Pyle to his Chadds Ford summer school in the Pennsylvania countryside, and it was there that she met her good friend, illustrator Sarah Stillwell Weber. Anna Whelan Betts was later honored as a fellow at the Pennsylvania Academy and won several medals for her work in various competitions and exhibitions.
Anna Betts' first published illustration was in Collier's Magazine in 1899, and her commission by Collier's was most probably at Howard Pyle's suggestion for he had many connections with the art directors and was always searching for new talent to propose for the hungry magazines. That first commission is what launched her career as from then onwards, her work was published in Century Magazine, Harper's Magazine, The Ladies' Home Journal, and St. Nicholas, among others. However, Anna was proudest when her work was published in book form and in 1901, her first book illustrations came to life in Nancy's Country Christmas, and in Janice Meredith. She is best known for painting Victorian women in romantic settings and moods. She won a bronze medal for her illustrations at the 1915 Panama/Pacific Exposition.
In 1925, Anna suffered declining sight problems and retired formally from illustrating. Simultaneously, she was fortunate to join the faculty of a small private boys school and was thereafter involved in all aspects of administering the school, including teaching the art courses, which she enjoyed immensely. Ms. Betts stayed at Solebury School for more than twenty years only retiring from that position in 1948 when her health began to wane. She then moved in with her sister in New Hope, Pennsylvania, having lived almost her entire life in the Delaware Valley.