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Kate Greenaway

(1846-1901 / England)

Biography of Kate Greenaway

Kate Greenaway (Catherine Greenaway) (London, 17 March 1846 – 6 November 1901) was an English children's book illustrator and writer. Her first book, Under The Window (1879), a collection of simple, perfectly idyllic verses about children, was a best-seller.

The Kate Greenaway Medal, established in her honour in 1955, is awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the UK to an illustrator of children's books. Her paintings were reproduced by chromoxylography, by which the colours were printed from hand-engraved wood blocks by the firm of Edmund Evans. Through the 1880s and 90s, in popularity her only rivals in the field of children's book illustration were Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott, himself also the eponym of a highly-regarded prize medal.

"Kate Greenaway" children, all of them little girls and boys too young to be put in trousers, according to the conventions of the time, were dressed in her own versions of late eighteenth century and Regency fashions: smock-frocks and skeleton suits for boys, high-waisted pinafores and dresses with mobcaps and straw bonnets for girls. The influence of children's clothes in portraits by British painter John Hoppner (1758–1810) may have provided her some inspiration. Liberty's of London adapted Kate Greenaway's drawings as designs for actual children's clothes. A full generation of mothers in the liberal-minded "artistic" British circles who called themselves "The Souls" and embraced the Arts and Crafts movement dressed their daughters in Kate Greenaway pantaloons and bonnets in the 1880s and '90s.

She was elected to membership of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1889.

She lived in an arts and crafts house she commissioned from Richard Norman Shaw in Frognal, London, although she also spent summers in the small Nottinghamshire village of Rolleston, near Southwell.

She died of breast cancer in 1901 and is buried in Hampstead Cemetery, London.

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At School

FIVE little Girls, sitting on a form,
Five little Girls, with lessons to learn,
Five little Girls, who, I'm afraid,
Won't know them a bit when they have to be said.

For little eyes are given to look
Anywhere else than on their book;
And little thoughts are given to stray
Anywhere–ever so far away.

[Hata Bildir]