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Walter Crane Archive

Date range: 1853–1993 (bulk 1860s–1915)

Medium: Archive

The extensive archive of Walter Crane (1845-1915), illustrator, designer and artist, is a significant resource for studies of 19th-century art and design.

Crane trained as a wood-engraver and became a freelance illustrator in the 1860s, while also exhibiting at the Royal Academy. During the 1860s and ’70s Crane’s artistic output was prodigious. He produced hundreds of illustrations and cover designs for Edmund Evans’s cheap yellow-backs, and he designed the immensely popular children’s Toy Books for Evans and for George Routledge. He also designed ceramics, nursery tiles and wallpaper.

Like his friend William Morris, Crane combined a strong social conscience with a design genius that catered to the taste of the Victorian middle classes. Inspired by Morris, Crane took up the socialist cause in the 1880s, first joining the Social Democratic Federation, then following Morris into the Socialist League. He was a founding member and president of both the Art Workers Guild and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. He also had a profound influence on the teaching of art at Manchester School of Art and then as Principal of the Royal College of Art.

The archive, comprising over four thousand items from Crane’s studio, was purchased jointly by the Library and the Whitworth Art Gallery from Crane’s grandson in 2002, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and others.

The collection covers all aspects of Crane’s art and design work, both commercial and private and includes his book illustration, decorative design, sketches and paintings. His personal papers span the whole period of his working life, and include personal and professional correspondence, journals, commonplace books, holograph manuscripts, newspaper cuttings, and printed books. There are also family photographs, photographs of his works, printing blocks and several medals which were awarded to Crane as an international exhibitor and for his services to the arts.

As well as being of interest to those researching the life and work of Walter Crane, the archive has significant research potential in the areas of political graphics, art and socialism, the 19th-century book trade,art education,interior design, children’s books, fashion and costume design, and the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Significant individuals represented in the archive include: John Lane, Edmund Evans, Mary Seton Watts, Georgiana Burne-Jones, William Morris and his daughter May Morris, Metford Warner, Edward Gordon Craig and Edmund Gosse.

Further information:

Catalogue available online via ELGAR.

Other information:

The Whitworth Art Gallery holds the artistic productions of Walter Crane, including designs for his commercial art (book illustrations, wallpapers, textiles, ceramics and costume), watercolours, sketches and studies, and photographic reproductions of his artwork.


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