Monday, November 24, 2014

Beautiful Book #35

Under the Window by Kate Greenaway. Routledge, 1879.

There are so many Greenaway award winners on this list, but so far Greenaway herself has not made an appearance. That all changes today. Immensely popular from the moment Under the Window was released in 1879, Greenaway was imitated to the point of plagiarism. The pinafores, skeleton suits, bonnets, and mobcaps that defined her idyllic view of childhood harkened back to 18th Century Regency fashion, but Greenaway made the look so distinctive that her influence on late 19th-century children's fashion rivaled that of her influence on book illustration. It amuses me to think of a pretend Victorian HONY-style photographer snapping pictures of Greenaway children for a "Today in Microfashion" series. If you are interested in her influence on fashion, this short video put out by ABE Books is instructive.

Greenaway's art was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement with its nostalgic, pastoral depictions of childhood and its use of soft colours, formally framed on the page. Along with Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott, she helped define what the modern picturebook would become. Her influence has never really faded; you can see it throughout the history of illustrated children's books from Tasha Tudor to Barbara McClintock and beyond. When I first saw a Greenaway illustration, it felt a bit like coming home, in part, I think, because of my childhood fixation with 1970's Holly Hobbie. 

While I've chosen Under the Window as today's beautiful book, I've also included the cover of A Apple Pie, her alphabet book, along with one illustration from it because I love the unspoken humour of it.

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