Kate Greenaway is a figure that I’ve been circling for some time now. I am currently studying 19th century gardens—both in their material and textual configurations—and, while I am early on in my research of this period, so far I have often focused on gardens of the Regency period and the late Victorian period. Publishing in the late 19th century and clothing children in regency-styled outfits, this makes Greenaway a person for me to know.
In a class visit during Spring 2015 to the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, I first saw Kate Greenaway’s Marigold Garden. Drawn in by the artwork and thinking of a seminar paper topic, I quickly went over to Project Gutenberg and devoured copy of Greenaway’s work. While I didn’t end up writing on it, I noted this as something to come back to.
Later in Spring 2015 I was walking through the Delaware Art Museum with a friend and spotted something garden related in a case (apparently my eye is now trained to land upon those artifacts). Upon approach, this also turned out to be a Greenaway work. Again, I noted her as someone to come back to and study further.
Despite my diligent note taking, Greenaway kept slipping out of my academic sightline. Until, however, I began working for Mark. Poking around the collection for garden related items, I once again stumbled upon Greenaway. Rather than scrolling through an online copy that didn’t do her work justice, I could go through page by page and see the beautiful depictions of gardens.
When doing my small role for putting up the exhibition “Victorian Passions,” Greenaway’s work, A Day in a Child’s Life, was one that continually drew my eye. Absolutely stunning from cover to cover, this children’s work is my favorite piece in the exhibition—perhaps unsurprising for someone interested in gardens. Yet, I think it would take a very strong willed person to merely glaze over this beautiful work.
John Ruskin himself—who Mark’s copy is inscribed to—appears to agree with me. Upon expressing his thanks to Greenaway for this copy, in a December 1881 letter he notes that “You are fast becoming—I believe you are already, except E[dward] B[urne] J[ones]— the helpfullest in showing me that there are yet living souls on earth who can see beauty and peace and Goodwill among men—and rejoice in them.”
A Day in a Child’s Life—along with many other beautiful Victorian objects—are on display in Special Collections Gallery, found on the second floor of Morris Library until June 3, 2017.