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Interview and Blog by William S. Peterson

July 3, 2013 Leave a comment

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William S. Peterson, author of The Beautiful Poster Lady: A Life of Ethel Reed, recently gave an interview with Nate Pedersen of Fine Books & Collections. It even includes images of some of her posters! Below you’ll find some excerpts.

Additionally, Dr. Peterson started a blog all about Ethel Reed. It gives a short introduction to who she is and what she did, and the numerous posts include images of both her work and herself, some not included in his book! It also includes some images that are in the book, but appear in color in in the blog. Below you’ll see three such images, interspersed with the interview excerpts.

According to the introduction, the aims of the Ethel Reed blog are to “(a) to assemble images of, and information about, all her known published work, (b) to put together a compilation of all the existing images of the artist herself, and (c) to report on new information about her life and career as it comes to light.” There are already over 150 posts on the blog; categories include Images of Ethel Reed, Illustrations (books), Illustrations (periodicals), Cover Designs, and more. Read through all of the interesting posts, and keep checking back for new information and more images of Ethel and her work!

  • Check out the full interview here.
  • Find the Ethel Reed blog here.
  • Buy The Beautiful Poster Lady here!

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So, let’s start at the beginning — who was Ethel Reed?

She was a Boston poster artist who achieved international recognition in the 1890s when she was only twenty-one. This happened to her almost overnight, and newspapers and magazines were soon describing her as the foremost woman graphic designer in America. I decided to write a biography of her because her posters (and book illustrations) are so distinguished — but also because her personal life was so mysterious. She was a woman of many secrets.
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What characteristics distinguish her work?

Her contemporaries noticed immediately that there was some resemblance to Aubrey Beardsley’s work. In almost all of her posters there is a solitary female figure, often brooding over a book, with a billowing gown and, in the background, enormous, almost menacing flowers. Ethel Reed’s women seem to be in a meditative mood, but at the same time they are subtly erotic figures.
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