Kate Greenaway Biography

Kate Greenaway

ENGLISH ILLUSTRATOR AND AUTHOR, 1846-1901

Born Catherine Greenaway, Kate Greenaway be one of the most important and influential illustrator for children of the late nineteenth century, despite shyness and avoidance of publicity. Indeed, a wholeindustry, which included china, fabrics, wallpaper, children’s clothing, and dolls, grew up around her book such as Under the Window (1879), The Language of Flowers (1884), and A Day in a Child’s Life (1881). The fast nation with the innocent childhood world she pi continues to this day.

Greenaway’s father, a wood engraver, had worked as an apprentice with Edmund Evans, the man who would have such an influence on children’s book publishing in the late nineteenth century. Like Kate, John Greenaway was a gentle soul who loved children but who was not financially astute. When the family finances suffered, Kate’s mother, Elizabeth, responded by opening a chil­dren’s clothing shop stocked with designs she made and sewed herself. The loose-fitting, flowing garments she created were meant as an antidote to the tightly fitting fashions of the day, and Elizabeth’s ideas about dress were reflected in the clothing Kate would make famous through her illustrations.

As a child, Kate loved to work beside her father, and in view of his profession in publishing and Kate’s love for drawing, the family encouraged her to consider art as a career. At that time, with the periodicals market increasing, there was a need for trained engravers’ assis­tants, and this was considered a suitable job for women. Kate began formal art training at the age of twelve and eventually studied at the Finsbury School, where artists were trained in such crafts as ceramics and textiles as Nell as in painting. While she attended school, she pre­pared for art exhibits, and her work began to be pub­lished in magazines. She came to be more widely known both in Britain and in America for her greeting card designs, in which her attention to detail of costume stemming from her work as a clothing designer and seamstress was highly valued. Eventually, John Green-may introduced Kate to Edmund Evans, who by then lad achieved success in color printing and was working with WALTER CRANE and RANDOLPH CALDECOTT. Evans was struck by Kate’s sense of color and line as well is her detail of costume and setting, and he persuaded George Routledge to publish Under the Window in 1879. This was followed by many other books of rhymes, songs, and stories, which firmly established her reputa­tion around the world.

Greenaway’s children, with their heart-shaped faces, their large eyes, and their rather somber expressions, represented life in an idealized world where the coun­tryside was always lovely, the weather fine, and the children clean and well fed. Her delicate lines and soft watercolor washes, her careful page design and layout, and her eye for every detail of costume and setting con­veyed an almost mystical reverence for the world of chil­dren. Perhaps this was meant as an antidote to the gloomy and somber settings of the Gothic-revival peri­od her books followed. More likely, however, the world she pictured was the world Kate remembered so loving­ly from her own childhood. She frankly admitted that she didn’t want to grow up and leave that happy time, and it was her artistic skill combined with her memory and imagination that appealed to her contemporaries as well as to the many generations since who have loved her books.

Reference: Anita Silvey, Children’s Books and their Creators

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