Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Philip Boileau (American, 1864-1917)

Figure 1.--This 1911 study of a boy was used for a post card in 1911. The artist was Philip Boileau and the boy is his nphew Clarence. He entitled it as "Youth" it was used as a "Saturday Evening Post" cover.

Philip Boileau was an American artist/illustrator. He was best known for painting beautiful. Perhaps oothr American artist is better known for painting women than Charles Dana Gibson. The resiulting images known as the "Boileau Girls" are perhaps know as the most dignified rendering of young women done by any early 20th century artist. We know of one painting of a boy. Theremay have been more. Boileau was a commercial artist and his work appeared in a wide range of formats, including postcards, magazine covers, book covers, art prints, and many commercial items such as beer serving trays. He died in 1917 before commercial art was more fully appreciated in America.


Boileau had quite a cosmopolitan background. His father was a French diplomat who was posted in Canada. At the time Napoleon III was in power in France. His mother was an American, Susan Taylor Benton, the daughter of the famned United States Senator, Thomas Hart Benton. from Missouri.


Philip Boileau was born during 1864 in Canada of French parents. As a boy, Philip lived in Canada, the United States (New York), and Paris. Although his father was a career diplomat, he whad to flee France when Emperor Napoleon III's governement fell during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). The Emperor was captured by the Prussians at Sedan. They went to England.


Philip was thus educated in England. I don't know yet what schools he attended in Englnd. After finihing school, at age 23 about 1867 he traveled to Italy to study art and music.

First Marriage

Boileau while studying art in Italy, met and married a beautiful Russian singer. She died a few years fter the marrige.

European Work

Bileau worked several years in Europe, traveling to several different countries. Not a lot is known about this [eriod in his life. He either was not serious about persuing his career or his efforts were not recognized and rewarded. Few of the paintings that he did at this have survived. Perhaps he was not very active. His known works done at this time are traditional works styled like the great masters and are quite differet than his work done in America.

Emmigration to America (1897)

Boileau at age 33 emigrated to the United States in 1897. He went to Baltimore, I am not sure why. He seems to have made a decission to seriously persuing his career. He began painting portraits of wealthy people in the city. He moved to Philadelphia and exibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1900).

Second Marriage

When he moved to Philadelphi he met Emily Gilbert who was a very young actress (1900). Boileau was smitten with her at once and she proved to be a great inspiration. They were married (1907). Philip was 43 and Emily was 21.

New York (1902)

New York was the center of the American art scene and publishing industry. Thus Boileau moved there (1902). He opened a studio there.


It was after setting up in New York that his real career bgan. It was there that he did "Peggy", the first of his series of glamerous women. His treatmentwas so different from established depictions that he had trouble marketing it. Finally he self-published it to great success. No one know for sure, but Peggy was probably in reality mily Gilbert. Boileau drew "Sweetheart", reportedly his favorite drawing of Emily which was also a great success (1905). These drawings of women are today known as the Boileau girls are are some of the finest representations of early 20th century American women.

Boileau's drawings of girls received increasing critical acclaim. Pictorial Review Magazine in 1915 sonsored an "Artist of the Year" contest (1915). Boileau won the second place award. Bessie Pease Gutmann know for her childhood works won the first place. We have done some work on illustrators, but have not yet added Gutmann to our archive.

While Boileau is best known for his wonderful drawings of women, he also did some similarly styled drawings of children. The drawing he called "Youth" is shown here (1911). This is one of his most notable illustrations. The boy is his nephew Clarence (figure 1). Boileau sent the draing to the Saturday Evening Post, at the time perhaps the leading magazine in America and noted for using illustrations on its front cover. (Normal Rockwell's cover illustrations are legendary. The Post was not at all sure that they wanted to use it, but Boileau had developed a strong reputation at the magazine nd convinced them. He suggested the title "Youth/Young America". The public loved it and it was a great success. As World War I approached he did illustrations which touched at the home and heart scenr rather than just glamerous women. He used Christine Kircher's brothers Clarence and William as subjects, drawing them with Emily.

Body of Work

Few artists worked harder at selling his work. Drawings by Boileau were virtually everywhere in the early 20th century. Postcards were all the rage in the early 20th century. There were 150-200 Boileau cards made. Most id not all were made for other purposes, but then reproduced as postcards. Reinthal & Newman was the principal publisher of these cards. Osborne did 12 calendar cards. Tuck did the Boileau Head series. The National Card Company did the Poster Girls series. Bolieau's most prestigious work was magazine covers. His best know covers were for Saturday Evening Post. He did 34 covers for the Post between 1907-17. He worked for many other important publications, including: Collier's, The Delineator, Everyweek, Holland's, The Housewife, Ladies Home Journal, Ladies World, McCall's, People's Home Journal, Pictorial Review, Southern Magazine, Success, War Cry (the Salvation Army Magazine), Sunday Supplement, and Woman's Home Companion. These covers as well as numerous interior illustrations gave Boileau's work great appeal. Curiously Boileau did few book covers. The only two he did were Temple Bailey books: Contrary Mary (1914) and Mistress Anne (1917). Boileau also made art prints of hi illustrations. These include a few full body poses in addition to the headand shoulder format that he was most noted for. Besides the principal formats, Boileau's images appeared virtually anywhere. and many commercial items such as beer serving trays.

Death (1917)

Boileau died at the peak of his career in 1917. At the timre he was one of the most famous illustrators in the country. He died unexpectely of pneumonia only 53 years old. If he had survived into the booming decade of the 1920s with thegreat expansion of the economy and commercial posibilities for his art, he cetainly would have been much better knokwn today than he is.


Ivankovich, Michael. "Philip Boileau ... Painter of fair women", (2003).

Ryan, Dorthy. Philip Boileau: Painter of Fair Women" (1981).


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Created: August 31, 2003
Last updated: August 31, 2003