the crane you never knew
Walter Crane is one of the most popular English illustrators of the second half of the 19th century. With Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott, he established the genre of picture books for children. The characteristics of his illustrations are decorative frames, use of black outlines and exquisite depiction of, for example, dresses and furniture. His work was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and by Japanese woodblock prints. 1
crane's illustrations and paintings demonstrate his clear placement in the aesthetic movement (primarily the 1860s and 70s, pre-dating the japonisme/art nouveau era by a decade), but even here in this work we see the fans, the pottery, and even the occasional japanese print beginning to sneak in.
his aladdin has strong japanese elements, but is clearly of indeterminate national origin! but even here we have the blue and white tiles of the aesthetic movement (and crane's own home).
what most surprised me about crane were his strong socialist beliefs. in these lithographs, the copy is enlightening (though i really don't understand all the politics).
they are each pages from "Mrs. Mundi at Home RSVP: The Terrestrial Ball", published by Marcus Ward & Co., 1875
MRS MUNDI GAVE A GREAT BALL...
DAME EUROPE WAS THERE IN THE LAST PARIS PASSION.
MISS AMERICA TOO, IN IDENTICAL FASHION.
WITH ASIA AND AFRICA PICKING THEIR CRUMBS
AND AUSTRALIA MELTING HER GOLD SUGAR PLUMS.
FRAULEIN GERMANY, FULL OF IMPORTANCE AND LAND,
WITH FAIR SIGNORA ITALY, HAND WITHIN HAND;
COUSIN RUSSIA, MORE FRIENDLY THAN EVER WAS KNOWN,
AND THE POOR DOGGY DENMARK WITH NEVER A BONE.
it was crane's observation that since the time when east-west trade began in the mid-19th century, it had exerted an enormous influence on the arts of europe. this was because, in his view, life in japan had still been akin to life in europe during medieval times and was thus a country where artists and craftsmen marvelously trained for many kinds of decorative work, and who took part of a bold and unconstrained naturalism. europeans found a living art, an art of the people, in which tradition and artistic talent had remained untainted, and whose work was beautiful, diverse, and with tremendous connection to and communicative of nature. it was not surprising that this art effected western artists as strongly as it did, and that its effects were so profound.