Under the Window -  Pictures and Rhymes for Children
From Under the Window
by Kate Greenaway

Kate Greenaway was a late 19th-century author and illustrator. Along with Randolph Caldecott and Walter Crane, she was one of the three most influential, popular and respected English children’s illustrators of the time. Over a century after her death, her work remains sought-after, and The Kate Greenaway Medal, an annual prize (since 1955) awarded for excellence in the field of English children’s illustration, lives on in her honour.


From childhood, Greenaway was encouraged by her parents to explore her artistic interests. By the age of 17, she had become quite adept at watercolours and ink drawings, and her art had won several awards. Greenaway’s first accompanying illustrations were published in 1867, when she was 21 years old, in the book Infant Amusements, or How to Make a Nursery Happy by William Kingston. She successfully illustrated no fewer than 30 books between then and 1879, when she tried her hand at writing her own book. Under the Window became an instant bestseller. Encouraged, Greenaway went on to write and illustrate several more books on her own.  She had a particular fondness for rhyme, and her warm, friendly verses appealed enormously to children.

Settings and storylines were generally idyllic and pleasant, with a focus on nature – happy children were depicted with flowers, birds, animals, and other natural elements. Admirers have speculated that having been homeschooled and rather lonely, spending much time on her own in the countryside, perhaps helped Greenaway to develop an understanding and imagination of what children needed and loved. There may be something to that, as similar sentiments have been expressed about the upbringing of Beatrix Potter. The children who lived in Greenaway's stories and artwork were happy, well-loved and cared for, seemingly without a care in the world. It was partly that idealised, peaceful sense of innocence that appealed to her audience, who extended far beyond England - she was extremely popular in America as well.

Birthday Book for Children
Birthday Book for Children

The daughter of a seamstress who also owned a clothing shop, Greenaway paid particular attention to fashion of the time, and clothed the children she drew in exquisite detail, inventing styles and accessories along the way. The clothing in her drawings became very well-known, and caught the eye of the fashion world at the time, to the extent that the name Kate Greenaway became as familiar in fashion circles as in literary ones. The smocks, bonnets, aprons and dainty adornments were outdated and reminiscent of the Regency era, but captured the nostalgic imagination of readers, and the styles began to emerge once more. Liberty of London, a well-known department store, even adapted the fashions seen in Greenaway's illustrations for a line of children's wear.

Many of Greenaway’s books were published by George Routledge & Co., a prominent publishing house of the time who were also well-known for publishing yellowbacks - affordable, commercial paperbacks from Victorian times whose aim was to make reading and books affordable to anyone. Edmund Evans, a wood engraver and block printer, was also famous for his contributions to Victorian yellowbacks, and he reproduced Greenaway’s paintings and drawings for her books as well. He used a method called chromoxylography, wherein Evans’ hand-engraved wood blocks printed the art into the books’ pages. Greenaway also produced art in other forms besides books, such as greeting cards and bookplates.

Greenaway’s poems and illustrations continued to be very popular and beloved by children for the remainder of the 19th century and beyond.  Sadly, she died of breast cancer at age 55, in 1901.

 

Books Illustrated and Written by Kate Greenaway

A Day in a Child’s Life by Myles B. Foster
A Day in a Child’s Life
by Myles B. Foster
The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
by Robert Browning
The English Spelling-Book by William Mavor
The English Spelling-Book
by William Mavor
Language of Flowers
Language of Flowers
by Kate Greenaway
A Cruise in the Acorn by Alice Jerrold
A Cruise in the Acorn
by Alice Jerrold
Melcomb Manor: A Family Chronicle by Frederick Scarlett Potter
Melcomb Manor: A Family Chronicle
by Frederick Scarlett Potter
Flowers & Fancies: Valentines Ancient and Modern by B. Montgomerie Ranking and Tully Thomas K.
Flowers & Fancies: Valentines Ancient and Modern
by B. Montgomerie Ranking and Tully Thomas K.
The Quiver of Love: A Collection of Valentines
The Quiver of Love: A Collection of Valentines
by Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane
Poor Nelly; and Polly and Joe by Mrs. Bonavia Hunt
Poor Nelly; and Polly and Joe
by Mrs. Bonavia Hunt
London Lyrics by Frederick Locker
London Lyrics
by Frederick Locker
Little Ann and Other Poems by Jane and Ann Taylor
Little Ann and Other Poems
by Jane and Ann Taylor
Songs for the Nursery Edited by Robert Ellice
Songs for the Nursery
Edited by Robert Ellice
The Royal Progress of King Pepito by Beatrice F. Cresswell
The Royal Progress of King Pepito
by Beatrice F. Cresswell
Turnaside Cottage by Mary Senior Clark
Turnaside Cottage
by Mary Senior Clark
 The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge
The Heir of Redclyffe
by Charlotte M. Yonge

The Queen of the Pirate Isle by Bret Harte
The Queen of the Pirate Isle
by Bret Harte

 

10 Most Expensive Kate Greenaway Books Sold on AbeBooks

1. Dame Wiggins of Lee and Her Seven Wonderful Cats by Kate Greenaway and John Ruskin - £236
This was a facsimile of the 1823 edition now published in an edition of 400. Illustrated with 22 woodcuts.

2. The Quiver of Love - A Collection of Valentines by Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway - £231
Blue cloth boards with gorgeous gilt decorations to cover, with title on a red rectangle.

3. Puck and Blossom - A Fairy Tale by Rosa Mulholland - £197
Circa 1890. With six gold and colour illustrated plates by Kate Greenaway, all intact.

4. Kate Greenaway's Birthday Book for Children - £169
1880. Illustrated by Greenaway 12 in full colour plates, printed by Edmund Evans.

5. The Fairy Spinner and Out of Date or Not by Miranda Hill - £145
No date. Green cloth with black gilt, decorative stamp by Kate Greenaway, all colour plates by Greenaway present.

6. A Apple Pie by Kate Greenaway -£140
Alphabet consisting of 20 beautiful colour plates, all of enchanting children. Rare in the full cloth binding.

7. Kate Greenaway's Book of Games - £120
24 Colour illustrations engraved by Edmund Evans. Harder to find title than most Kate Greenaways and one of the most charming.

8.The Quiver of Love - A Collection of Valentines by Thomas Tully and Montgomerie Ranking - £108
Four fine colour illustrations also heightened in gold by Kate Greenaway (though not signed).

9. The Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway - £100
Original binding in hardback with beautiful illustration and title to front board.

10. The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning - £93
Cloth-backed brown pictorial paper over boards. Colour Illustrations by Kate Greenaway.

 

Kate Greenaway's Influence on Children's Fashion:

 



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