Labor History in 2:00

March 14 Walter Crane Died

March 14, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1915. 

That was the day British socialist illustrator Walter Crane died. 

You have probably seen his Art Nouveau style illustrations. 

Many celebrate International May Day, memorialize the Haymarket Martyrs of Chicago or commemorate the Paris Commune. 

He also published a series of illustrations titled, “Cartoons for the Cause.” 

That series was produced to commemorate the International Socialist Trade Union Congress of 1896. 

Born in 1845, Crane apprenticed with the Chartist radical, William James Linton.

He started his career illustrating children’s books, nursery rhymes and fairy tales. 

He later traveled to Italy with his wife, Mary, to continue with book illustrations and portraiture.

Upon his return to Britain, he became friends with artist William Morris, whose pamphlet, Art & Socialism deeply impacted him.

Crane soon joined the Art Workers’ Guild and the Arts and Crafts Society.

Together, he and Morris joined the Social Democratic Federation. 

Crane provided illustrations for its journal Justice. 

From there, he helped to found the Socialist League and illustrated its journal, The Commonweal. 

When the League failed to gain popularity, he moved on to the Fabian Society, whose members included George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells and Sidney and Beatrice Webb. 

Crane produced wildly popular images like the Angel of Freedom, and published The Claims of Decorative Art. 

In it, he asserted, “art could not flourish in a world where wealth was so unfairly distributed… Only under Socialism could Use and Beauty be united.”

He continued to publish and became principal of the Royal College of Art in 1898.

A strong critic of the British Empire, Crane supported the Labour Party and produced posters each year to celebrate May Day.

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