Friday, April 25, 2014

A Superlative Original Kate Greenaway Watercolor

by Stephen J. Gertz

A scarce and significant Kate Greenaway painting, this beautiful gouache, an important early example of her evolution as an artist, appeared as "Disdain," opposite p. 84 in The Quiver of Love (1876), one of four unsigned illustrations by Greenaway of a total of eight, the other four by Walter Crane.

"The crowning event of this year [1876] was the publication by Mr. Marcus Ward of the volume mentioned by Mr. [W.J.] Loftie, entitled 'The Quiver of Love, a Collection of Valentines, Ancient and Modern, With Illustrations in Colours by from Drawings by Walter Crane and K. Greenaway.' All the designs had already been published separately..."  (Spielmann, p. 53).

Indeed, this design originally appeared as one in a set of four valentine cards illustrated by Greenaway.

"Through Loftie she established a connection with the publisher Marcus Ward, for whom she designed 32 sets of greeting cards between 1868 and 1877, when his repeated exploitation of her designs without further payment led her to sever their connection. The cards served a triple purpose for Greenaway: they provided a steady income, they gave her work public visibility, and they furnished a forum in which to develop the 'Greenaway child' that would become her hallmark.

"Despite the rather garish colours employed in Ward's early chromolithographs, samples preserved in the greeting card collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum show both the evolution of Greenaway's style and its departure from other exceedingly mawkish cards then on the market. The valentine Disdain is a notable example. An especially popular greeting card, it was repackaged with other designs by Greenaway and Walter Crane and sold as a book, The Quiver of Love. Its Pre-Raphaelite tone would resurface more forcefully in much later paintings, such as the Fable of the Girl and Her Milk Pail (1893)" (Gaze, Dictionary of Women Artists, p. 611).

The watercolor is identified by the title, "Roses," on the rear of the artboard, and it may be that it was the painting's original name; it is unclear. Here in its original full design, the image was cropped for the card and book.

The verse (by "F.R.") accompanying this illustration in The Quiver of Love reads:

My love, alas, our old acquaintance has forgot,
She never turns her eyes, and passing heeds me not;
Ah! scornful maiden! true hearts do not strew the ground,
When you relenting seek one, it may not be found

GREENAWAY, Kate. "Disdain." An Early Original Watercolor in Gouache by Kate Greenaway for The Quiver of Love. c. 1875-1876. Image: 168 x 128 mm on art board (218 x 176 mm).

Spielmann, p. 53. Schuster and Engen 167 (book). Schuster & Engen 288 (card). Engen, p. 49-50.

Image courtesy of Nudelman Rare Books, with our thanks.

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