Lullaby and Goodnight—Children’s Literature from the Morse Collection
October 29, 2013 through January 11, 2015
This exhibition focuses on three authors noted for their contributions to early children’s literature: Kate Greenaway (1846–1901), Mary Dow Brine (1836–1925), and Eulalie Osgood Grover (1873–1958). Each took separate paths to strengthen their appeal through illustration. The exhibition includes almost 20 books by these authors as well as vintage dolls, Rookwood ceramic nursery tiles, and even a rocking chair, c. 1915, from the Chicago bedroom of the museum’s founder, Jeannette Genius McKean.
The books in this exhibition reflect the fact that by 1900, the principle of unified design was well established. Many artists held that good design should unify all aspects of the visual environment—from ceramics and glassware to furniture and wallpaper—and that the useful should be beautiful. This philosophical approach to design required that even children’s literature be fully integrated with an enhanced visual environment and an element of a harmonious home. As an aspect of the Aesthetic movement, children’s books were part of a broad social effort to instill an early appreciation of beauty and, in turn, improve the character of children. While today the thrust of books for children—primers, fables, and nursery rhymes—is about literacy, the charming characters, captivating plots and whimsical prose of late 19th-century children’s books were instruments in spreading the gospel of beauty.
British artist and author Kate Greenaway used her illustrations for almanacs and collections of verse to portray the idyllic landscape as a playground for children dressed in sumptuous Regency clothing. Her style offered a romanticized escape from the realities of the ever-encroaching industrialized world.
Mary Dow Brine, an American poet, author and lyricist, collaborated with many talented artists as well as composers to elevate her words and is perhaps best known for her poem, “Somebody’s Mother.” At the Morse, her most noteworthy work is My Boy and I or On the Road to Slumberland, a poem and lullaby written for one of the very few books Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) published. This leather-bound edition from 1881 will be on view in the exhibition.
Writer Eulalie Osgood Grover, a native of the Midwest who retired to Winter Park in 1926, collaborated with illustrator Bertha L. Corbett (1872–1950) to produce The Sunbonnet Babies’ Primer for elementary-school textbooks. The Sunbonnet Babies became so universally loved that they were used in advertising, on sheet music and post cards, and they even adorned a line of juvenile pottery produced by Roseville Pottery.