Walter Crane (1845-1915) was born in Liverpool, England; the second son of Thomas Crane, a portrait painter and miniaturist. He was a fluent follower of the newer art movements and he came to study and appreciate the detailed senses of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and was also a diligent student of the renowned artist and critic John Ruskin. A set of coloured page designs to illustrate Tennyson's “Lady of Shalott” gained the approval of wood-engraver William James Linton to whom Walter Crane was apprenticed for three years (1859–1862).
|1858-59 The Lady of Shalott book illustration|
As a wood-engraver he had abundant opportunity for the minute study of the contemporary artists whose work passed through his hands, of Pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais, as well as Alice in Wonderland illustrator Sir John Tenniel and Frederick Sandys. A further and important element in the development of his talent was the study of Japanese colour prints, the methods of which he imitated in a series of toy books, which started a new fashion.
In 1862 his painting "The Lady of Shalott" was exhibited at the Royal Academy, but the Academy steadily refused his later work and after the opening of the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877, he ceased to send pictures to Burlington House.
|1862 The Lady of Shalott oil on canvas 24.1 x 29.2 cm|
In 1863 the printer Edmund Evans employed Crane to illustrate yellowbacks and in 1865 they began to collaborate on toy books of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. From 1865 to 1876 Crane and Evans produced two to three toy books each year. In 1864 he began to illustrate a series of sixpenny toy books of nursery rhymes in three colours for Edmund Evans.
|Sixpenny Book "Grammar in Rhyme"|
He was allowed more freedom in a series beginning with The Frog Prince (1874) which showed markedly the influence of Japanese art, and of a long visit to Italy following on his marriage in 1871. His work was characterized by sharp outlines and flat tints. The Baby's Opera was a book of English nursery songs planned in 1877 with Evans, and a third series of children's books with the collective title Romance of the Three R's provided a regular course of instruction in art for the nursery. In his early "Lady of Shalott", the artist had shown his preoccupation with unity of design in book illustration by printing in the words of the poem himself, in the view that this union of the calligrapher's and the decorator's art was one secret of the beauty of the old illuminated books.
He followed the same course in The First of May: A Fairy Masque by his friend John Wise, text and decoration being in this case reproduced by photogravure. The Goose Girl illustration taken from his Household Stories from Grimm (1882) was reproduced in tapestry by William Morris. Flora's Feast, A Masque of Flowers had lithographic reproductions of Crane's line drawings washed in with water colour; he also decorated in colour The Wonder Book of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Deland’s Old Garden. In 1894 he collaborated with William Morris in the page decoration of The Story of the Glittering Plain, published at the Kelmscott Press, which was executed in the style of 16th century Italian and German woodcuts. Crane illustrated editions of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene (1894–1896) and The Shepheard's Calendar, as well as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1873), The Happy Prince and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde (1888), an edition of Arthurian Legends, and A Flower Wedding.
Crane wrote and illustrated three books of poetry, Queen Summer (1891), Renascence (1891), and The Sirens Three (1886). Walter Crane illustrated Nellie Dale’s books on Teaching English Reading: Steps to Reading, First Primer, Second Primer, Infant Reader, Book I, and Book II. These were most probably completed between 1898 and 1907.
His own easel pictures, chiefly allegorical in subject, among them "The Bridge of Life" (1884) and "The Mower" (1891), were exhibited regularly at the Grosvenor Gallery and later at the New Gallery.
|1884 The Bridge of Life|
|1892 Neptune's Horses oil on canvas 86 x 216 cm|
Biographical notes on Walter Crane from Wikipedia
This is part 1 of a 12-part post on the children’s books of Walter Crane:
1866 A Gaping-Wide-Mouth-Waddling Frog
1866 The Song of Sixpence of Sixpence Picture Book
|A later cover|
1869 One, Two Buckle my Shoe (Picture Book)
1870 The Fairy Ship
|Cover of re-issue|
1870 King Luckie Boy's Party
1873 Cinderella Picture Book