Walter Crane The Arts and Crafts, Painting, and Politics Morna O'Neill

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
Publication date:
30 Nov 2010
Paul Mellon Centre BA
320 pages: 254 x 190mm
100 b-w + 20 color illus.

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'.

More about this title

Winner of the 2011 Historians of British Art Book Prize (Post-1800 category). The Historians of British Art annually awards prizes to outstanding books on the history of British art and visual culture.

Morna O'Neill is Assistant Professor of Art History in the Department of Art at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the author of the exhibition catalogue Art and Labour's Cause is One: Walter Crane and Manchester, 1880-1915 (Whitworth Art Gallery, 2008).

"O’Neill shows an acute feel for Crane, for the period, and for the value of later critical voices in shedding light on it. Soul-hunger afflicts us still, but in the world of art history, head and heart are often kept separate. Here is an example of bringing them together that unlocks the past and reopens the window on the future."—Alan Powers, The Art Newspaper

"Morna O’Neill’s impressive new book provides...It brings together a huge body of research and focuses on the most neglected aspect of Crane’s work, his mythological and allegorical paintings."—Jo Banham,
The Victorian

"O’Neill’s account of Crane’s work and its close links to his political activities brings new material to light and helps to establish more fully his place in the later Arts and Crafts movement…O’Neill’s study is important."—Christopher Long, Burlington Magazine 

"O’Neill has done a particularly commendable job in re-establishing Crane’s status as a painter... This is a really stimulating monograph that gives a modern perspective on an artist who is himself far more modern in outlook than the ‘traditional’ treatment of his paintings, graphics, and designs would suggest. The book is, as one would expect from Yale University Press and the Paul Mellon Centre, attractively designed and well illustrated."—Peter Cormack, Journal of Stained Glass, Vol XXXIV

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