Kate Greenaway RWS (1846-1901)

Illustration by Kate Greenaway, 1883

Kate Greenaway was one of the most popular figures in British book illustration in the latter part of the 19th Century, rivalled only by Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott. She is best known for sugar-sweet pictures of little children and girls in bonnets. It can be a little hard for the modern eye to adjust to this, because we are bombarded with so much third-rate stuff of this nature, but Greenaway's pictures are by far the best of the genre, and her simple compositions are very carefully studied.

Kate Greenaway was the daughter of John Greenaway, a wood-engraver for Punch and the Illustrated London News. She studied at South Kensington, where she befriended the painter Lady Butler, and then at the Slade under Alphonse Legros. From 1871 she produced a variety of designs for Christmas and Valentine cards for Messrs. Marcus Ward. When this work stopped in 1877, she started to design book illustrations for Edmund Evans, printer of both Crane and Caldecott. Greenaway's style was to draw in watercolour, and successfully transferring her drawings to the woodblock was costly. However, the illustrations she produced were enormously popular and she became wealthy, able to have a house designed for her in a posh part of Hampstead, where she took up residence in 1885. As well as her book illustrations, Greenaway exhibited her watercolours at the Royal Academy from 1877, and had a widely praised exhibition of her work at the Fine Arts Society in 1891, on which occasion Lord Leighton bought a couple of drawings. Greenaway became a good friend of John Ruskin, maintaining a long correspondence with him.

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