Festival of Empire

Walter Crane


Walter Crane was an Arts and Crafts designer, theorist and active socialist. His work is difficult to categorize. He made designs for wallpaper, pottery, stained glass, trades union banners; illustrated books, newspapers and magazines; wrote prolifically; and also painted. He believed in the ‘unity of the arts’ and was a founder member of the Art Workers’ Guild (founded in 1884), and was also president of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society from 1888 to 1893.

Crane was the first person in the audience to respond to George Birdwood’s damning comments concerning Indian art, made after E. B. Havell’s paper on 12 January 1910 at the Royal Society of Arts. Alighting on Havell’s points about the dangers of Western commercialism for the survival of traditional Indian arts and craft, Crane said that he had found a link between what certain artists in India and England were attempting to do, namely, to ‘raise the banner of the handicrafts’.

Crane and his wife had travelled to India in the winter of 1906-7, a journey he recorded in his book India Impressions. Crane noted that he and his wife had been inspired to make the trip after making the acquaintance several young Indian men in London, many of whom were called to the Bar. Crane was also a member of the India Society and sat on the Executive Committee of the Festival of Empire in 1911. He was involved with the Festival’s Indian Court committee and was appointed to the art sub-committee. Crane designed posters and other visual material for the Festival. A year after the Festival of Empire, Crane designed the front cover of a new publication, the African Times and Orient Review, edited by the Egyptian writer, actor and nationalist, Duse Mohamed.

Published works: 

The Baby's Opera ([S.I.]: Warner, [n.d.]) 

An Alphabet of Old Friends; and, The Absurd ABC (London: Routledge, 1874)

Lines and Outlines (London: Marcus Ward, 1875)

The Baby's Own Aesop: Being the Fables Condensed in Rhyme (London: Routledge & Sons, 1886)

Legends for Lionel: In Pen and Pencil (London: Cassell, 1887)

Flora's Feast: A Masque of Flowers, Penned and Pictured by Walter Crane (London: Cassell, 1889)

The Claims of Decorative Art (London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1892)

On the Study and Practice of Art: An Address Delivered to the Art Students of the Municipal School of Art and the Municipal Technical School, Manchester, Saturday, March 4th, 1893 (Manchester: Manchester Guardian Printing Works, 1893)

Cartoons for the Cause, 1886-1896 (A Souvenir of the International Socialist Workers and Trade Union Congress, 1896) (London: Twentieth Century Press, 1896)

Of the Decorative Illustration of Books Old and New (London: George Bell & Sons, 1896)

Bases of Design (London: George Bell and Sons, 1898)

Line and Form (London: George Bell and Sons, 1900)

Moot Points: Friendly Disputes on Art and Industry Between Walter Crane and Lewis F. Day (London: B. T. Batsford, 1903)

Ideals in Art: Papers, Theoretical, Practical, Critical (London: George Bell & Sons, 1905)

Flowers from Shakespeare's Garden: A Posy from the Plays (London: Cassell, 1906)

An artist's reminiscences (London: Macmillan, 1907)

India Impressions (London: Metheun, 1907)

William Morris to Whistler: Papers and Addresses on Art & Craft & Commonweal (London: G.Bell, 1911)

'Art and Character', Character and Life: A Symposium, ed. by Percy L. Parker (London: Williams & Norgate, 1912)

Date of birth: 
15 Aug 1845
Contributions to periodicals: 

‘How I Became a Socialist’, Justice (30 June 1894), p.6

‘The Work of Walter Crane with notes by the Artist’, Art Journal (1898) [Easter Art Annual]

‘Discussion’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 58.2985 (Feb. 1910), pp. 273-298

Secondary works: 

Dölvers, Horst, Walter Cranes "Aesop" im Kontekst seiner Entstehung, Buchkunst und Bilderkunst im Victorianischen England (Kassel: Edition Eichenberger, 1994) 

Engen, Rodney, Walter Crane as Book Illustrator (London: Academy Editions, 1975)

Gerard, David, Walter Crane and the Rhetoric in Art (London: Nine Elms Press, 1999)

Konody, P.G., The Art of Walter Crane (London: George Bell and Sons, 1902)

Lundin, Anne H., Victorian Horizons: The Reception of the Picture Books of Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway (London: Scarecrow, 2001)

O’Neill, Morna, “Art and Labour’s Cause is One": Walter Crane and Manchester, 1880-1915 (Manchester: The Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, 2008)

Spencer, Isobel, Walter Crane (London: Studio Vista, 1975)

Archive source: 

Letters, British Library Manuscript Collection, British Library, St Pancras

Papers, Glasgow School of Art Archives, Glasgow

Correspondence and Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Boston

Papers, Leeds University, Leeds

Correspondence and Papers, London School of Economics Archive, London

Letters, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Papers, Archive of Art and Design, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Involved in events: 
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
14 Mar 1915
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