Ethel Reed was an internationally recognized American graphic artist. In 1890s, her works received a critical acclaim in America and Europe and currently are exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
Ethel Reed was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on March 13, 1874, daughter of Edgar Eugene Reed. Her father died when she was an adolescent and Ethel and her mother went through hardships. After they moved to Boston in 1890, she studied briefly at the Cowles Art School in Boston in 1893, and after 1894 began to receive public notice for her illustrations. In the mid-1890s she was engaged to fellow artist Philip Leslie Hale, whose father, Edward Everett Hale, was a prominent Bostonian. However, the engagement was broken off. In 1896, she sailed to Europe with her mother, and traveled there. In 1897, they settled in London, where Reed worked as an illustrator, in particular, for the Yellow Book, a quarterly literary periodical, which was co-founded by Aubrey Beardsley. Her later circumstances in England are difficult to trace, and certain records of her final years have yet to surface. According to the recent research, she died in her sleep in 1912.
In her short career, Ethel Reed achieved recognition one of the pre-eminent illustrator and poster artists of her period. She was acquainted with many important literary and artistic figures of her day, such as the writer Richard le Gallienne, the architects Bertram Goodhue and Ralph Adams Cram, and the photographer Fred Holland Day. Ethel Reed was the model for Day's photographs Chloe and The Gainsborough Hat. She also modeled at least three times for portraits by Frances Benjamin Johnston.