Catherine (Kate) Greenaway was a children’s book author and illustrator, born in March 1846. Her family lived in Islington (a borough of London), above her mother’s clothing boutique. Her father was a wood engraver and also worked for the Illustrated London News, which was the world’s first illustrated weekly newspaper. Kate spent her summer days with family in the Nottinghamshire countryside, the inspiration for many of her stories.
Kate went on to study art than began illustrating. Her first successful book was Under the Window, published in 1878. The book was released in time for Christmas and quickly sold out! Kate went out to write and illustrate many children’s books such as Birthday Book (1880), Mother Goose (1881), and Marigold Garden (1885). The fashions illustrated by Kate were replicated and worn by children in the late 19th century.
Kate was known to be quite shy and never married or had children of her own. However, she had a unique relationship with art critic John Ruskin – who was 27 years her senior. The two met in 1882 when Kate was 36 years old and Ruskin 63. When Kate and Ruskin were not together, they would write letters to each other. Ruskin is rumored to have been aroused by drawings of prepubescent girls and encouraged Kate to draw girls with bare feet or perhaps even nude; however, she held true to herself and her work and declined.
Kate was diagnosed with breast cancer and died in 1901. Kate not only left behind popular children’s books and fashion, but also inspiration for designs that have appeared on china, salt and pepper shakers, napkin rings, toothpick holders, and more.
Above is a Kate Greenaway inspired figural boy and girl salt and pepper shaker set. They each measure 3″ high and 1.5″ at the base and I believe the set to be from the late 1800’s. Both children feature hand painted faces with rosy cheeks. They appear to be inside a rope barrel or sack in a childlike pose with their chins resting on crossed arms. There is a small chip in the girl’s bonnet; however, other than that they are in fairly good shape and free of cracks and crazing.
The woman whose life and estate started my journey into the world of antique and vintage collectibles (a journey you can read more about here) was quite the collector of salt and pepper shakers. I look forward to sharing more of her collection with you as I uncover it!