The so-called “Golden Age” of children’s illustrated books—a period dating from around 1880 to the early twentieth century—is today regarded as a literary epoch that produced some of the finest works of art ever created for children’s literature. The culmination of a progressive movement that, for the first time, focused on producing texts specifically oriented to appeal to children, this era continues to be cited as a major source of inspiration for modern juvenile authors and illustrators.
Illustrators of the Golden Age distinguished themselves through their use of modern art theories to reinterpret classical texts such as folk tales. As a result, facets of several different artistic styles were used to reinvigorate conventional children’s publications, demonstrating the influences of the Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic Art movements, Romanticism, Japonisme and Art Noveau,
Many of the top artists of this era either earned lasting fame as a result of their work in children’s publishing, such as Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway, or solidified already well-established reputations by crossing over to juvenile-themed illustrations, such as George Cruikshank.
Artists of this period are remembered for providing more intuitive connections between the text and image than had been present in children’s literature prior to the Victorian Age. They created gateways to the text rather than drawing attention away from the text.