Date: British painter, illustrator, and designer, 1845–1915
Biography: Walter Crane was the son of artist Thomas Crane. From his youth he showed signs of artistic talent, and in 1859 he was apprenticed for three years to the London engraver William James Linton. During his apprenticeship he honed his drawing skills and became familiar with the publishing industry. In the 1860s he began producing the children's books for which he is best known. These books were of three basic types: fairy tales, modem stories, and educational texts. His illustrations of these texts encompassed both the overall flatness of Japanese design and the linearity of classical art, particularly in the rendering of figures and drapery. His technique at this point was very close to the style of the early Aesthetic Movement.
Despite his success as an illustrator, Crane was driven to gain recognition as a painter as well. His painted landscapes resembled those of Frederic Leighton, Giovanni Costa, and others. He also created large subject pieces, the best-known being The Renaissance of Venus (1882, Tate, London). Although the Pre-Raphaelites, and especially Edward Burne-Jones, influenced his painting style, he also drew heavily on Renaissance and classical sources. He exhibited regularly at the Grosvenor Gallery, New Gallery, and Dudley Gallery.
Like William Morris, with whose firm he was occasionally involved, Crane was interested in interior design. A strong believer in the moral benefits of living among artistically designed, beautiful objects, he supported the work of the individual craftsman, writing in 1888 that "the true root and basis of all Art lies in the handicrafts." He designed for a number of companies in a variety of media, including wallpaper for Jeffrey and Company and pottery for Pilkington and Wedgwood. In 1888 he was instrumental in founding the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, an institution devoted to the exhibition and promotion of contemporary decorative arts.
In addition to designing specific objects, Crane created entire interiors for private patrons. These complex projects included ceiling and wall panels, friezes and window shutters, light fittings, and fingerplates for doors. Crane wrote about his art and design theory in Ideals on Art (1905) and published his Artist's Reminiscences two years later. He died in Horsham Cottage Hospital on March 14, 1915.
From "Biography of Walter Crane (1845-1915)" by Stephen Wildman, in 'Waking Dreams: The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites from the Delaware Art Museum' (Alexandria, VA: Art Services International, 2004), p. 360-361.