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Walter Crane

By Aaron Ancheta

Walter Crane was born in Liverpool, England in 1845. He was the son of Thomas Crane. He is most well known for his illustrations in children’s books. He also worked as a political cartoonist for many leftist newspapers. Crane also involved himself in an Arts and Crafts Movement which came in opposition to the aesthetics of Victorian era mass production.

Crane had a predisposition to illustration, as his father Thomas Crane, was also an illustrator for children’s books. One of his works was Mr. Pig and Miss Crane. Walter Crane received his education at the Royal Academy Schools and had his first apprenticeship under William James Linton as a draughtsman. Walter Crane would later work for Edmund Evans, a printer who had worked with several during his time.

Walter Crane’s art style drew inspiration primarily from the artwork of the Italian Renaissance. He would later implement elements from Japanese woodblock prints as well as the marble sculptures of the Greek Parthenon. Some of these elements would include the emphasis on line and the use of negative space from Japanese artwork as well as the realistic rendering of figures upon a two-dimensional plane from the Greek Parthenon sculptures. Crane preferred subject matter that was pure fantasy and rarely illustrated scenes of everyday life.

His work in children’s books was what made Crane’s world-wide reputation. He had worked with the Brother’s Grimm as an illustrator for their fairy tales such as Snow White and The Frog Prince. In cooperation with Edmund Evans, Crane made illustrations for nursery rhymes such as Sing a Song of Six Pence. He also worked on children’s education books such as Grammar in Rhyme.

Politics was in important part of Crane’s life in his 30’s. Influenced by illustrator William Morris’s involvement in the movement, Crane went to join the cause of Socialism. He made many contributions to William Morris’s magazine The Commonweal in the form of political cartoons antagonizing Capitalism and the bourgeois classes. He would also draw cartoons that commemorated the French Communes as well as the International May Day.

In Decorative Art movement started by William Morris, Crane was its main representatives. The movement opposed what they saw as the degradation of life brought about by mass production in the Victorian Era. The designs of many household objects had become poorly designed and lifeless despite the age’s technological advancements. The purpose of the Decorative Art movement was to bring a element of handcrafted-ness to products as well as to reflect what they believed to be an ideal society. Crane had created several works of art intended to be used as decoration for housing such as wallpapers, floor tiles, ceramics, textiles, and stained glass. Through his involvement in the movement, Crane proved that he was capable of transferring art style into any medium.

Later in his career, Crane would join the ranks of academia and gave lectures at the Birmingham School of Art. The content of his lecture would later be published in books like Line & Form, a guide that made a correlation between the outer elements of a drawing and the inner details within a rendered form. For instance, Crane explained in Line & Form, that the shape of a fruit would in turn decide the shape of the leaves surrounding it and the shape of the stem and tree holding it.

Crane died in 1915, shortly after the death of his wife.

Resources

Line & Form – http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25290.bibrec.html

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