CRANE, Walter

(1845 - 1915)
 “Let the designer lean upon the staff of the line”

Born in Liverpool into an artistic family, Crane was apprenticed in 1859 to W.J. Linton, a master wood-engraver, where he learnt to draw on wood, a profitable outlet for an illustrator at that time. By the mid 1860s he was engaged in producing a series of sixpenny ‘toy’ books, published by Routledge, in which he designed the covers, text and illustrations.  His admiration for the romantic subjects of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and the simple flat style of Japanese wood-block prints shaped his bold book illustrations.  Closely associated with William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, Crane’s work is often imbued with classical or medieval fantasy restrained by the demands of decorative book design.  The most elaborate of his later works is Spenser’s Faerie Queene, which he illustrated in the full woodcut tradition and later described as “the full page designs are all treated as panels of figure design … and are enclosed in fanciful borders … somewhat on the plan of medieval tapestries”. 

A prolific illustrator, designer and activist for social reform, Crane was a significant figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, becoming president of the Art Workers’ Guild in 1884 and president of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society from 1888 to 1890.

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 Walter CRANE

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