Walter Crane

(15 August 1845 - 15 March 1915)


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Born in Liverpool in 1845, Walter Crane was the son of portrait painter, miniaturist, and lithographer Thomas Crane. Shortly after Walter's birth, Thomas' poor health forced the Crane family to move to Torquay, a seaside health resort in the rural county of Devon. This move was perhaps fortunate for Walter, who noted later in life that his love of landscapes and of the sea was the result of spending his early childhood in this idyllic place.

Walter Crane was primarily a designer and book illustrator, specialising in children's books. He was born in Liverpool, moving to London with his family in 1857. After a period during which he worked on illustrations for a poem of Tennyson, he became apprenticed to the famous wood engraver William James Linton and studied drawing in his spare time. In 1862 he exhibited 'The Lady of Shalott' at the Royal Academy. His first illustrated book, The New Forest, was published the following year.

He was a great admirer of Edward Burne-Jones, whose work he first saw at the Old Watercolour Society in 1865. In his autobiography he recalled what a deep impression Burne-Jones' pictures made upon him: 'The curtain had been lifted, and we had a glimpse into a magic world of romance and pictured poetry, peopled with ghosts of "ladies dead and lovely knights" - a twilight world of dark mysterious woodlands, haunted streams, meads of deep green starred with burning flowers, veiled in a dim and mystic light, and stained with low-toned crimson and gold..' [An Artist's Reminiscences, 1907]

Crane's later watercolours of slightly menacing wooded landscapes and vague but sinister mythical events represent a world which the artist has dreamt of rather than visited. In 'Diana' the huntress seems to be leading her male followers through a primeval forest, perhaps to their destruction. He died in London, 1915.

University of Pittsburgh: University Library System div

Walter Crane, multifaceted artist of the late nineteenth century, was one of the best-loved children's illustrators of his day. Although he often painted in oils and displayed his easel paintings in galleries and at exhibitions, Crane's paintings never achieved the monumental success and public recognition of his illustrative work. Today, just as in his own time, Walter Crane is recognized as one of the greatest and most innovative of all children's book illustrators.


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