In Focus: Kate Greenaway’s watercolours

Kate Greenaway is a name which is vaguely familiar to a lot of our visitors – the Kate Greenaway Medal is a prestigious award given to children’s illustrators, with recipients including Quentin Blake, Raymond Briggs, Lauren Child and Chris Riddell.

Unsurprisingly, Kate (Catherine) Greenaway was herself a children’s book illustrator. Born in 1846 to a working-class London family, she took night classes at a nearby school from the age of 12, studying drawing, porcelain painting and wood engraving amongst other skills. She ended up enrolling full time at the Slade School of Art in 1871, where she honed her talents. Whilst she was still at school, she began receiving commissions for children’s book illustrations, which proved highly successful and financially lucrative. She worked freelance producing greetings cards, which were in their infancy in the late Victorian era: again, her drawings and designs went down extremely well with the wider public.

The clothes in which Greenaway depicted the children she illustrated are also notable. They are a sort of jumbled mix of late 18th century / Regency fashions – Liberty’s began producing clothes for children in a similar style, and the fashions were embraced by some followers of the Arts & Crafts movement.

Godinton has two lovely framed Kate Greenaway watercolours in the White Room. Both are of small children, dressed in her traditional clothing style, and are perfect examples of the kind of work she is best known for. Despite the fact they were done in a different century, Greenaway’s watercolours do seem to have something of a timeless quality about them, and we hope that our visitors enjoy them as much as we do!