Walter Crane:
The Arts and Crafts, Painting, and Politics, 1875-1890

Morna O'Neill

Publicaton Date
May 2010
Standard Number
Yale University Press
320 pages

Walter Crane (1845-1915) was one of the most important, versatile and radical artists of the nineteenth century: a painter, decorator, designer, book illustrator, poet, author, teacher, art theorist, and socialist. Crane's astonishingly diverse body of work challenged the establishment, artistically and politically.

In this original and carefully researched new study, Morna O'Neill presents a fascinating portrait of an artist who used his talent and energy to dismantle the traditional boundaries between fine art and decorative art, between elite and popular, between art and propaganda. Crane's enduring influence is felt on many levels, and significant new research in this book uncovers the magnificent breadth of his artistic practice. The finest book illustrator of the Victorian era, he revolutionized that field. Inspired by John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites, he was central to the development of Aestheticism in England and, later, Symbolism in Europe. A friend and associate of William Morris, his work embodied Arts and Crafts ideals. A lifelong political radical, he invented the iconography of English socialism.

Crane's compelling and fascinating work asserts the central role of the artist in society. By creating new environments and imagining a future world, Crane promoted design as a powerful force for social change. By reconsidering his politics and reintegrating it with his art, Crane emerges in this book as a unique figure, an artist who translated 'art for art's sake' into 'art for all'.