Figure 1.--"Under the Window" published about 1900 is one of many Kate Greenaway books which contain charming drawings of early 19th century children's clothing. Readers must remember, however, that they are not contemporary illustrations.
Kate Greenaway's enchanting draings charmed the Victorians and still is popular today. Her drawings provide an idyllic vision of childhood and animals. She is also the authoress of many charming children's books which she illustarted herself. She also did almanacs and calendars. Many of the drawing are about animals, but she did many wonderful drawings of children in early 19th century outfits, including Empire dresses, smocks, pinafores, tunics, and skeleton suits. A HBC reader wonders about the children she drew in dresses. He asks, "Kate Greenway did a lot of drawings featuring children in quaint costumes. I think some of the children in dresses are boys. The only thing I have to base this on is the hats, very elaborate for the girls and plain for the boys with a single ribbon band. Given artistic license, how accurate do you think her depictions are?" HBC does not know. Given that boys were not usually breeched until 4-6 years throughout the 19th century, it seems likely that she would have drawn the younger boys in dresses and smocks. HBC can not, however, confirm this.
Kate Greenaway was born on March, 17, 1846 at Hoxton New Town in the heart of London's industrialized East End. We have no information on her childhood yet.
HBC at this time has no information about the clothing Kate worn as a girl or the clothes that the children in her family wore.
She began art lessons at the age of twelve 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.
Kate Greenaway's enchanting draings charmed the Victorians and still is popular today. Her drawings provide an idyllic vision of childhood and animals. She is one of the most popular and instantly recognizable illustrator of both animals and children. Her popularity extends around the world even though she only drew scenes of English children. The drawings are so popular in fact that many imagine them when they think of English childhood. They were ceratinly idealic and innocent. Most English children during the 19th century lived in very different circumstances. Greenaway's England was a world where happy, carefree children danced in enchanting flowery meadows. The scenes are often peopled nursery rhyme characters. Greenway published an amazing diversity of books, cards, almanacks, and calendars. She had tremendous sensitivity of line and instinct for figure composition. Even more than her animal drawings, it is her images of innocent children wearing Empire dresses, smocks, punafores and skeleton suits in garden settings holding nosegays, garlands and wreaths is that have proven the most enduring. There are many artists who have done cute animals, but her drawings of children are almost instanty recognizable. Greenaway is perhaps best known for the book she both wrote and illustrated herself. She also illustrated books written by others, such as the Pied Piper of Hamlin by Robert Browning.
John Ruskin was an author, art critic, and reformer--one of
England's most respected Victorian thinkers. Some have called him the most influentional cultural figure of his day. Ruskin was a respected Victorian art critic. He held a position of substantial influence during the 1850s. He promoted the carers and art of many young artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Ruskin was appointed as Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University from 1871 to 1878--a prestigious position. Ruskin was especially helpful to amateur and aspiring professional artists of the period, especially women which had virtually no avenue for professional training. The traditional path for training and exhibition at the Royal Academy and other major institutions was for men. Women found professioanal training as an artist difficult or impossible. Ruskin published Elements of Drawing in 1857. It brought art education within the reach of many women as well as individaulasof humble circustances who could not afford a formal art eduaction. Therewas extensive corespondence beteen readers and the author. Many wrote to Ruskin. His informative replies to their were the 19th century equivalent of distance learing. Most of these correspondents he never met, but several like Kate Greenway and Louise Blandy became close friends. Her artistic vision was influenced by Ruskin who especially appreciated Greenaway's figures of rose-wreathed girls in long white dresses.
Kate Greenaway is the authoress of many charming children's books which she illustarted herself. Many of the drawing are about animals, but she did many wonderful drawings of children in early 19th century outfits, including Empire dresses, smocks, pinafores, tunics, and skeleton suits. One example of a Greenway book with charming illustrations of children is Under the Window, published about 1900. She also illustrated classic fairy tales like Mother Goose.
Figure 2.--Greenaway shows the boy here wearing an early 19th century work smock. At least I think it is a smock, it could be a coat. I'm not sure just why the girl is showing her petticoats. I think she may be carrying something in the basket created by holding up the skirt of her dress.
Kate Greenaway also pulished a number of marvelous almanacs. She started working on the first almanac in 1882. By this time, Greenway was already an important well-known illustrator of greeting-cards and children's books. The first almanac was published in 1883 and was very small, little less than 3 x 4 inches. It was published by George Routledge & Sons. The 1983 almanac immediately became very successful and full of charming illustrations. Greenaway also did a 1884 almanac. It had a soft cover and was larger than the small 1883 almanac,about 5 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches. This was, however, Greenaway only large format almanac. The commercial success of these almanacs caused the enterpriding author and illustrator to design four calendars for 1884. These calendars were not very successful and Greenaway did not repeat the 1884 experiment. The 1884 almanac was popular because of the Greenaway's illustrations showing children in charming costumes and engaged in various activities suitable for the month illustrated. Greenaway continued almanacs until 1897, but the drawings and quality of the printing declined in later years.
The children pictured in Greenaway's theoretically set in the early 19th century, perhaps the 1810s-30s. They are not contemporaru drawings or even Greenway looking back at her childhhod. Greenaway never updated the clothing style over the years. She never, for example, drew boys in Fauntleroy suits or with long ringlet curls. I have also not noted sailor suits. Her drawings were an idealized notalgic look at an earlier simplier period--one reason that the drawings were so popular with the Victorians. Some of the common garments pictured in the drawings are bonnets, straw hats, dresses, smocks, pinafores, tunics, and long pants skeleton suits, and strap shoes. A HBC reader wonders about the children she drew in dresses. He asks, "Kate Greenaway did a lot of drawings featuring children in quaint costumes. I think some of the children in dresses are boys. The only thing I have to base this on is the hats, very elaborate for the girls and plain for the boys with a single ribbon band. Given artistic license, how accurate do you think her depictions are?" The gender of the children wearing smocks and pinafores presents the same question. HBC does not know. Given that boys were not usually breeched until 4-6 years throughout the 19th century, it seems likely that she would have drawn the younger boys in dresses and smocks. HBC can not, however, confirm this.
Most of the children in Greenaways drawings have relatively short hair styles. Most children have their hair over their ears, both the boys and girls. We do not see a lot of boys with runflets, but there are a few. Some of the childtren have hair that touches their shoulders, but HBC has not noted any children with hair longer than just touching their shoulders. Most children had shorter hair styles.
Ina Taylor, The Art of Kate Greenaway: A Nostalgic Portrait of Childhood,
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