A nineteenth-century illustrator, famed for her depictions of children. She did careful lines and bright colours, and is still recognized as a style that is attractive and innocent, without being twee. She is commemorated by the Kate Greenaway Medal, for the best British children's book-illustrator.
She was born on 17 March 1846, in Hoxton, north London, the daughter of the wood-engraver John Greenaway. She studied art at the Central School in South Kensington then from 1871 the Slade School, and began drawing Christmas cards and valentines. Her very first commission was a frontispiece in 1867.
From 1877, the year she had an exhibition of watercolours at the Royal Academy, she illustrated books, which she did first as watercolours, these being then transferred to engraving. Her first real success was Under the Window in 1879, in collaboration with the engraver Edmund Evans. Together they developed the technique to reproduce her delicate colours.
Kate Greenaway's illustrations made her rich, and in 1885 she moved to Frognal, in Hampstead, where her house is marked today by a blue plaque. There is another plaque to her in Upper Street, Islington. She died of breast cancer on 6 November 1901.
She is still very popular today, even more durable than her equally influential contemporaries Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott. With Caldecott she became a friendly rival, but with Crane only a rival. For twenty years she corresponded with the great critic John Ruskin, who had written her a (critical) fan letter. After a few years they met. He could be harsh, and by this time was of not entirely sound mind. He persuaded her to try "real" painting, larger watercolours such as were now made popular by her schoolfriend Helen Allingham, but she was not as successful at these, and this sapped her confidence.
The girls she drew have characteristic frilly dresses and rather elegant and prominent hats. There's a very jolly song by Erik Satie called La diva de «L'Empire» about a charming, winsome diva who drives all the gentleman of Piccadilly to frenzy, with her sweet innocent smiles and flashing laugh sous le grand chapeau Greenaway (under the big Greenaway hat).
Notable winners of the medal since its inception in 1955 include Edward Ardizzone in 1956; Brian Wildsmith in 1962; John Burningham in 1963 and 1970; Raymond Briggs in 1966 and 1973; Pauline Baynes in 1968; Jan Pienkowski in 1971 and 1979; Janet Ahlberg in 1978 and 1991; Michael Foreman in 1982 and 1989; and Alan Lee in 1993.
The best website I've spotted on her is www.ortakales.com/illustrators/Greenaway.html , which has a few good illustrations.