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Perhaps a child can inherit his parent's artistic touch. At least of Walter Crane this seems to have been true. As a young boy, Crane spent many of his days in the studio of his father, a lithographer and portrait artist, sketching the hands and feet of his father's commissions. Born in mid-nineteenth century Victorian Britain this young man studied John Gilbert's engraved illustrations in the Illustrated London News--an illustrator who exerted a great deal of influence on his contemporaries' illustration style and consequently on Crane's early artistic development.
In 1857 at age eleven, Crane moved to London and worked as an engraver's apprentice for noted master engraver W. J. Linton, who recognized and wished to develop Crane's talent as a designer. Crane had already won the praise of the famous art critic, John Ruskin, for a color illustration of Tennyson's Lady of Shalott. During his three years as an apprentice, Crane drew a variety of things from iron bedsteads for mail-order catalogs, and medical dissection diagrams, to biblical and book illustrations as well as court sketches for the magazine News of the World. After leaving Linton's tutelage, Crane illustrated the paper covers of cheap railway novels. Edmund Edwards, the engraver of his designs, persuaded Crane to try his hand at colored picture books for young people, and so began Crane's work as a children's book illustrator. He was only twenty years old.
During the next ten years, Crane produced about four picture books every year, mostly nursery rhymes. Most readers will recognize Little Red Riding Hood The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast. Once he finished those, Crane made three little books of nursery songs, with the music set on one side of the page and the illustration on the other. Book publishers rejected the first of these, The Baby Opera 1877), because of its design, but the public accepted Crane's book and demanded a printing of more than 40,000 copies. Crane followed Baby Opera with Baby's Bouquet, a collection of German, French and English songs translated by his sister Lucy, and The Baby's Own Aesop. These three books found an eager audience in Britain.
In addition to his picture books and nursery songs, Crane illustrated some sixteen children's stories by Mrs. Molesworth, who was often criticized for the child-like grammar and moralizing tone present in her work. Among those that Crane decorated were The Rectory Children (1889) and The Children in the Castle (1890). Crane also provided illustrations for two of Robert Louis Stevenson's books.
Crane's travels took him all across the European continent and even to America, where his work was greatly admired. He died at home in West Kensington, London, at the age of sixty-nine a year after the First World War began.
A. Illustration1/1 Original matted ink drawing of St. David's Cathedral, Wales -- 1885. One item.
The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection
The University of Southern Mississippi
118 College Drive, #5148
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001
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