Wuanita Smith Biography

Wuanita Smith




Wuanita Smith, illustrator, painter, and printmaker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1866. She began her art training in 1884 at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now the Moore College of Art and Design). Upon graduation she found work as a jewelry designer for $12 a week, taking courses at the Drexel Institute under Howard Pyle in her spare time. She also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Students League in New York, and in Paris where she took courses in blockprinting from Allen Lewis. Among her teachers were Hugh Breckenridge and Ralph Pearson. Following her formal studies she traveled to Greece, Mexico, and Alaska, painting and exhibiting as she went. 

Smith became a successful children's book illustrator. Among the books she was commissioned to illustrate were The Little Runaways at Home, The Four Corners Series, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and Gulliver's Travels. She was a founding member with Mary Mullineux of the American Color Print Society, and often exhibited with her in two-women exhibitions. She was also part of the Provincetown, Massachusetts group that developed the white-line color block print method during World War I, and exhibited there in the 1920s and 1930s.

She had a studio on Nantucket, and was a regular exhibitor at the summer art colony in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, as well as the Pennsylvania Academy, the Plastic Club, and the Woodmere Art Museum. For many years, she also had living quarters in Philadelphia at the Clinton Hotel. Tragically, a fire in the building destroyed much of her work in 1952.

Smith was a member of the American Color Print Society where she was a founder and treasurer between 1940-51); Philadelphia Print Club; PAFA (fellow); Phila. Plastic Club (hon.); Woodmere Art Gallery: New Haven PCC; Bridgeport AA; NAC. Her work is in the collections of the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Nantucket Historical Association, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others.

Wuanita Smith continued to work until her death in Philadelphia in 1959, aged 93.