(17 March 1846 - 6 November 1901)
Catherine Greenaway (known as Kate Greenaway), was born at 1, Cavendish Street, Hoxton. She was daughter of John Greenaway and of his wife, Elizabeth Jones. John Greenaway was a prominent wood-engraver and draughtsman, whose chief work is to be found in the 'Illustrated London News' and 'Punch', and in the leading magazines and books of the day. His paternal grandfather was also the forebear of the artist, Mr. Frank Dadd, R.I., whose brother married Kate's sister.
The family consisted of (1) Elizabeth Mary ('Lizzie'>, afterwards Mrs. Frank Coxall, born in 1841; (2) Catherine ('Kate'), born in 1846; (3) Frances Rebecca ('Fanny'), afterwards Mrs. Edward Martin Dadd, born in 1850; and (4) Alfred John, born in 1852. It was the intention of the parents that the second child should bear the name of Kate, but by blunder Catherine was substituted.
At twelve she was a prize-winner at the South Kensington Art School (Islington branch), and later won several medals, including the "National." She attended life classes at "Heatherley's" and the newly-opened Slade School. Amongst her fellow-students and friends were Elizabeth Thompson (Lady Butler) and Helen Paterson (Mrs. Allingham). Beyond designing Christmas cards and valentines she did not appear before the public until 1868, when she first exhibited at the Dudley Gallery. Here six little drawings on wood attracted the attention of Rev. W. J. Loftie, who had them written up to and published in the 'People's Magazine.'
She was now beginning to recognize the possibilities which lay in a revival of our grandmothers' gowns. These she made up with her own hands, and with them costumed her little models and lay figures. It was largely due to this thoroughness in the beginning that she achieved her ultimate success. In 1870 she exhibited for the first time in Suffolk Street. In 1871 she illustraed Madame D'Aulnoy's 'Fairy Tales' for Messrs. Kronheim. In 1872 she designed some covers for yellow-back novels. In 1873 slie began work on 'Little Folks' (Cassell), and was employed by Marcus Ward to design Christmas cards, which proved an immense success. The same year she exhibited and sold her picture 'A Fern Gatherer' at the Royal Manchester Institution. In 1874 slie illustrated 'Topo,' a youthul performance of Miss Blood's (Lady Colin Campbell), for Marcus Ward, and the same year published with that firm 'The Quiver of Love,' a volume of Valentine's. In 1877 she sold her first Academy picture, 'Missing,' and was working for the 'Graphic' and 'Illustrated London News.'
Of greatest importance, however, at this time was the beginning of her long business connection with Mr. Edmund Evans, the well-known colour-printer, and the turning-point in her career was his production of 'Under the Window,' of which both illustrations and letterpress were hers. Of this 70,000 copies were sold. This was followed, amongst others, by the
In 1880, she was invited to exliibit at the Grosvenor Gallery. Up to this year she had sold her drawings out and out, but from henceforth she retained the copyrights as a protection against imitators and pirates. In 1881, the Crown Princess of Germany (the Empress Frederick) and Princess Christian sought her acquaintanceshiip and received her at Buckingham Palace. In 1883, she had made enough money (four of her books alone having brought her in £8000), to build herself a fine house and studio at 39, Frognal, Hampstead. This, which was designed by Mr. Norman Shaw and finished in 1885; (Monday, February 16th, 1885, Miss Greenaway moved into Frognal) she inhabited till her death.
In 1883, she began the series of Almanacks (mentioned above), which were continued (1896 excepted) until 1897. Her designs were now being freely copied on glass, crockery, linen fabrics, wall-papers, stationery, tiles, chocolate-boxes and pottery, both at home and abroad. In 1885, she did some extra illustrations for the old ballad, Dame Wiggins of Lea, which was published with extra verses and an introduction by Ruskin. In 1889, she was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours, to the exhibitions of which body she became a frequent contributor of genre subjects and portraits. In 1891, 1894, and 1898, she held exhibitions of her pictures at the Fine Art Society (Bond Street), and sold several thousand pounds' worth of pictures. It was, too, in the early nineties that she made the acquaintance of Mr. J. H. Spielmann, her future biographer. During her later years she designed several charming bookplates, and finally in 1899, at the age of fifty-three, she set herself to master the technicalities of portrait-painting in oils. But her health was now failing, and, after two years of suffering, she died on November 7, 1901.
Technically Kate Greenaway was not a great artist, but she influenced greatly the art of the nineteenth century. In a limited sense she was the founder of a school, but she will be chiefly remembered for the revolution which she accomplished in the dress of the children of two continents. Her name has passed not only into the English language but into the French, where "greenawisme" has gone to stay.[Bryan's dictionary of painters and engravers, 1903.]
CATHERINE GREENAWAY, (KATE), artist, was born at Cavendish Street, Hoxton, on 17 March 1846, being the second daughter of John Greenaway, a draughtsman and engraver on wood, long connected with the earlier days of the Illustrated London News and Punch. Her mother's maiden name was Elizabeth Jones. Early residence at a farmhouse at Rolleston, a Nottinghamshire village, served to nourish and confirm her inborn love of art; and she early developed that taste for childhood and cherry blossoms which became, as it were, her fitting pictorial environment. As a girl she studied drawing in various places, eventually joining the art school at South Kensington, where the headmaster, Richard Burchett [q. v.], thought highly of her abilities. One of her contemporaries was Ehzabeth Thompson (afterwards Lady Butler); another was Helen Paterson, afterwards Mrs. William Allingham. She later 'took the life' at Heatherley's, and studied under Alphonse Legros [q. v. Suppl. II] in the Slade School at University College. In 1868, being then twenty-two, she exhibited at the Old Dudley Gallery a water-colour drawing entitled 'Kilmeny.' This was followed by other works, e.g. the 'Spring Idyll' ('Apple Blossom') of 1870, in which year she also sent to Suffolk Street for the first time 'A Peeper' (children playing), which foreshadowed her later successes in the domain of little people. In 1877, she sent to the Royal Academy (and sold for twenty guineas) her first contribution, 'Musing'; and in 1889, she was elected a lady member of the Institute of Painters in Water-Colours, to which she frequently contributed portraits, studies, and designs.
But long ere this date she had achieved a wide and well-earned reputation as an inimitable exponent of child-life, and an inventor of children's books of a specific and very original kind. Her country experiences had stored her imagination with quaint costumes and unhackneyed accessories, and her quiet habit of mind and fondness for the subject enabled her to create a particularly engaging gallery of small folk. She was also fortunate enough to find in William John Loftie [q. v. Suppl. II] and Henry Stacy Marks, R.A. [q.v. Suppl. I], friends judicious enough to persuade her to cultivate her own bent of invention. After preluding for Messrs. Marcus Ward of Belfast and for others in valentines and Christmas cards, and drawing for minor magazines, she made a first success in 1879, with Under the Window, the precursor of a long line of popular works, which brought her both fame and money, and a list of which is given hereafter.
She was occasionally tempted from her predestined walk by demands for book illustrations (e.g. Bret Harte's Queen of the Pirate Isle), or by eflorts on a larger and more ambitious scale; but in the main she went her own way, and confined herself generally to the field in which, though she had many imitators, she had no formidable rivals. Now and then, as in Under the Window and Marigold Garden, she was her own rhymer; but although she possessed a true poetic impulse, her executive power was hardly on a level with it. As an artist she had, however, not only popularity but many genuine admirers, who fully appreciated the individuality of her charm. Ruskin, of whom she was long a favoured correspondent, wrote enthusiastically of her work in Praeterita and elsewhere; and both in Germany and France she was highly estimated. Three exhibitions of her works took place at the Fine Arts Society during her lifetime, namely, in 1880, 1891, and 1898; and these were followed in January 1902, by a fourth after her death. She died in her fifty-fifth year, on 7 Novenber 1901, at No. 39 Frognal, Hampstead, the house which had been built for her by Mr. Norman Shaw, and where she resided with her parents.
Much of Miss Greenaway's preliminary work was done for the old
The chief authority for Kate Greenaway's life is the exhaustive volume published in 1905, by M. H. Spielmann and G. S. Layard. This, amply illustrated by reproductions of drawings and water-colours, and enriched by copious extracts from the artist's correspondence with Ruskin, is also written with much critical insight, and genuine sympathy for Miss Greenaway's aims and achievement.
The Death of Kate Greenaway
The uncrowned queen of the golden age of children’s book illustration was fifty-four when she died at her house in Hampstead. Designed for her by Richard Norman Shaw, the house was a tangible proof of success, for she had started life in modest circumstances in Hoxton in 1846. Her father, John Greenaway, was a wood engraver who worked on the Illustrated London News and in the 1850s her mother kept a ladies’ outfitters in Islington, where the family lived above the shop in Upper Street. Kate spent her childhood summers with relatives in the country in Nottinghamshire and it was to an idyllic countryside that she turned for inspiration. She loved her childhood and recalled: ‘I hated to be grown-up and cried when I had my first long dress.’
After studying at the Slade School, she got work from Christmas and Valentine card manufacturers as well as publishers of children’s books and magazines. Early titles in the 1870s included Fairy Gifts or a Wallet of Wonders by Kathleen Knox and Starlight Stories Told to Bright Eyes and Listening Ears by Fanny Lablache. Kate made her name with Under the Window, Pictures and Rhymes for Children, which apeared in time for Christmas 1878, and sold out in a flash with the bookshops clamouring for copies.
Illustrated editions of two books by Charlotte M. Yonge followed.
Frightful as some of these titles may sound, Kate Greenaway’s illustrations had extraordinary charm. They showed saucy or demure curly-haired children in old-fashioned clothes -- pretty girls in frocks, smocks and bonnets, boys in hats and short jackets -- living in an innocent world where no serious harm would ever come to them. Her own life, however, was very different. Dumpy, plain and shy, she never married and had no children herself. Instead she was taken over by Ruskin, who when they met in 1882 was sixty-three to her thirty-six. He greatly admired her and from then on supervised her work and dominated her life. He always admired childish innocence in women, and the type of ‘girlie’ Kate portrayed, and Kate was mesmerised by him. They spoke baby-talk to each other, he was her ‘darling Dinie’ and they signed their letters with varying numbers of kisses according to mood. He wanted her to do drawings of her child models in the nude and send them to him, but she declined. The relationship was almost certainly never consummated, but her devotion to him survived his ill temper, his fits of madness and his eventual senility and lasted until his death in 1900.
She herself then had litle time left. In 1899, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which she kept secret from everyone. The pain was abominable, the cancer spread to her lungs and breathing became almost impossible. Hampstead was silently blanketed in November fog when the end came at nine o’clock on the evening of the 6th. Privately and with the minimum of fuss, she was cremated at Woking and on the 13th, her ashes were buried in Hampstead Cemetery next to her father and mother. On her headstone was inscribed a verse she had written for the occasion:
View painter's art: Kate Greenaway (1846-1901)