Jessie Marion King lived from 20 March 1875 to 3 August 1949. She was an artist and art teacher particularly remembered as an illustrator of children's books. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Jessie King was born in Bearsden, north-west of Glasgow. Her father was a Church of Scotland minister and she received a strict religious upbringing in which her obvious artistic talents were discouraged. Despite this, in 1891 she began to train as an art teacher at Queen Margaret's College. The following year she enrolled as a student at the Glasgow School of Art. In 1899, Jessie was appointed to the post of Tutor in Book Decoration and Design at the Glasgow School of Art. Over the years that followed she held a number of positions at the GSA, including running the embroidery department from 1904 and teaching ceramic design from 1907.
Between 1899 and 1902, Jessie provided illustrations for a series of children's books published by Globus Verlag, Berlin. Her style was strongly influenced by the Art Nouveau movement and her cover for "L'Evangile de L'Enfance" was awarded a gold medal at the Turin International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in 1902. Jessie took advantage of the Turin Exhibition to embark on a grand tour of Italy and Germany, where she studied the work of classical and more modern artists, being especially impressed by the works of Sandro Botticelli.
Back in Glasgow, Jessie became a committee member of the Glasgow Society of Artists in 1903, and a member of the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists in 1905. On the artistic front, she mounted exhibitions of her work at the Bruton Street Galleries in London in 1905, and at Annan's Gallery in Glasgow in 1907.
In 1908 Jessie married artist and designer Ernest Taylor. They moved together to live in Salford, and then, in 1910, to Paris, where they opened the Sheiling Atelier School. Jessie's work in Paris is seen by many as helping influence the later Art Deco movement. Jessie and Ernest were forced by the war to leave Paris in 1915, and they settled in Greengate Close in Kirkcudbright, their home becoming a regular haunt of many of the members of the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists. Jessie lived in Kirkcudbright, continuing to produce ceramic art and watercolours, until her death in 1949.