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Walter Crane was born in the small town of Liverpool in August 1845 in an artistic household. His father, Thomas Crane, was a portrait painter and his siblings would also follow creative paths, as his sister, Lucy became an esteemed writer and his brother Thomas, became an illustrator like himself. Without a doubt, Walter Crane is one of the most prominent names of children’s illustration of the XIX century.
Crane became a student of John Ruskin, a Victorian artist and leading art critic of his time. He was interested in new art, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood served as inspiration for the British illustrator. He studied the work of artists like Sir John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
He was apprenticed under William James Linton, a landscape painter, and wood engraver, during the years 1859 to 1862. Although Crane had a great admiration for his contemporaries, he would not leave behind the Classical influences of the Italian Renaissance.
Walter Crane became affiliated with the Socialist movement by the early 1880s, like the poet and textile designer William Morris. He began developing his work with the intent of it being part of everyday life of every social level, mostly producing decoration for houses, like wallpapers and textile designs. The illustrator also created cartoons with a social cause for newspapers.
The modern movement of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society was founded in 1888 with Crane as one of the frontrunners. He was deeply committed to the Art Workers Guild, which was also connected to the ideas of William Morris and the new British movement. Ahead of his time, Crane worked on a project for a modern clothing line, focusing on comfort and even encouraging women to dress without a corset. Without a doubt, Crane’s political view created quite a controversial stir in his career, and he lost financial support during a period.
In 1863, Crane was employed by Edmund Evans, a British printer, to illustrate novels known as yellowbacks. About two years later, they were collaborating on toy book projects, in which they portrayed fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Toy books were very popular during the Victorian Era in England, and together they produced up to three per year, until 1876. In 1886, Crane wrote and illustrated his own poetry book, named Sirens Three. He would later write and illustrate two more books of poetry in 1891.
Crane was a multitalented artist, working with a wide variety of media, like stained glass, pottery, plaster relief, textile, wallpaper designs, among others. In 1882, he was elected as a member of the New Society of Painters in Water Colours in London, and in 1888, the artist was associated with the Water Colour Society. He became deeply praised throughout his career and received an Albert Medal from the Royal Society of Arts in 1904.
Walter Crane died at 69 years old, in the town of Horsham, West Sussex, in March 1915, in his home country.