Kate Greenaway

On this date in 1846, Kate Greenaway was born in London. Her father was an engraver for Punch and her mother was a seamstress. She attended a school of art as a teen, then the newly opened Slade School, where, as a female student, she was barred from life drawing classes involving nude models. She exhibited her first illustration in 1868.

Her delicate watercolors of children wearing simple, timeless frocks, landscapes and flowers are classics that are still instantly recognizable today. Greenaway’s oft-reprinted books include Illustrated Mother Goose (1881), the picture book Under the Window (1877), the Birthday Book and The Language of Flowers (1884). Her watercolors were exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1877 onward. She corresponded for 20 years with art critic John Ruskin and was not shy about expressing skepticism about religious claims.

Greenaway died of breast cancer at age 55. The British Library Association inaugurated a Kate Greenaway Medal in 1955 to be given to the best illustrator of children’s books. (D. 1901)

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