Kate Greenaway

Kate Greenaway RI (British, 1846-1901)

Kate Greenaway was born into a family of artists, her father an engraver, and friend of both the colour printer Edmund Evans and Myles Birket Foster, one of the most famous of Victorian artists. Greenaway trained at the Slade, and began work as a book illustrator, designing Valentine and Christmas cards and bookplates. It was through Edmund Evans that Greenaway became widely known: having seen a portfolio of her drawings and poems he was enchanted and immediately published them as the collection Under the Window. After the volume’s runaway success Greenaway produced book after book for children, Mother Goose and the Pied Piper of Hamelin being among the most famous; already in her day these works were being published in editions of tens of thousands.

Greenaway’s illustrations were celebrated for the magical Regency world they captured. Her style was largely derived from artists such as Stothard, yet is distinct in its child-like innocence, charm and sentimentality, which greatly appealed to Victorian taste. Her pen drawings in outline are particularly fine, exquisitely and meticulously drawn; her watercolours are in fact pen drawings washed over with muted colours.

Greenaway became an intimate friend of John Ruskin, who admired her work and encouraged her engagement with nature. Her legacy is widespread, and her work spawned numerous imitators, and was even reproduced in the designs of clothing and accessories. She is still among the most beloved and collected of nineteenth-century artists.

References: Susan Ruth Thompson. Kate Greenaway A Catalogue of the Kate Greenaway Collection, Detroit Public Library, 1977. Ina Taylor. The Art of Kate Greenaway: A Nostalgic Portrait of Childhood, 1991.