The Frances Hooper Kate Greenaway Collection was generously donated by Frances Hooper. The extensive collection consists of books, letters, manuscripts, and artwork by the artist and is housed in the Fine and Rare Book Room, Special Collections of the Hunt Library, Carnegie Mellon University. In 1980, when the collection was donated, the Hunt Botanical Institute mounted a splendid exhibit of Kate Greenaway. The exhibition catalog is available in the library, and information about it may be found in the catalog record. Kate Greenaway books may also be found in the library catalog or by contacting Mary Kay Johnsen for more information.
ate Greenaway was born on March 17, 1846 at Hoxton New Town in the heart of London's industrialized East End. Her father was a wood engraver and her mother a seamstress, and they encouraged her artistic talents. The Greenaway family lived in cramped quarters in various dark London East end neighborhoods, but at one economic low point, Kate was sent to live with country relatives in Rolleston for two years and would return frequently to visit. These country years impressed upon her sensitive nature and she stored up memories of hills, clouds, flowers and romps that she used in her work for the rest of her life.
She began art lessons at an early age and later raced through twenty-three stages of a course at the local Finsbury School of Art, where she won several book prizes and medals. Later, Greenaway's artistic vision was influenced by John Ruskin who appreciated Kate's figures of rose-wreathed girls in long white dresses. The theme of cutely dressed children was a trademark of Kate’s, though there were many other artists using it as well. The work of Helen Allingham, a former schoolmate of Kate’s and fellow artist, dealt with the same subjects, but Kate’s work was distinctive. Although the subject of childhood may not have been unique, her treatment of it was.
Her books, cards, and almanack series show Greenaway's sensitivity of line and instinct for figure composition. The decorative effect of her innocent children in garden settings holding nosegays, garlands and wreaths is characteristic of the enchanting appeal of Kate's world.
Kate’s work helped to usher in “the age of the child”, when childhood began to be thought of as cherished. Her unique handling of children’s materials broke conventions for children’s books. Kate dared to show, albeit gently, real questions of childhood such as how to handle wonderment and let’s pretend and silly grown up questions.
Her early books represent innovative examples of a color printing process perfected by Edmund Evans. The original design was photographed onto wooden blocks which were engraved for each of the three colors used. The blocks were aligned so that the colors overlapped, thus producing a new series of tones. Evans also produced books for Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott. The three became the foremost illustrators of 19th century children’s books, and Punch magazine dubbed the three “The Nursery Triumvirate” in 1881.
Kate Greenaway's world of eternal spring is best described in her own words. In describing to Ruskin a scene that haunted her all her life, she said, "Go and stand in a shady-lane-at least, a wide country road, with high hedges, and wide grassy places at the sides. The hedges are all hawthorns blossoming; in the grass grow great patches of speedwell, stitchwort, and daisies. You look through the gates into fields full of buttercups, and the whole of it is filled with sunlight... Now do you see my little picture, and me as a dark girl in a pink frock and hat, looking about at things a good deal, and thoughts filled up with such wonderful things-everything seeming wonderful and life to go on forever just as it was."
Other selected Kate Greenaway collections: