A is for Aestheticism: Reading Politics in the Art of Walter Crane
April 09, 2014
Morna Elizabeth O’Neill
Assistant Professor of 18th- and 19th-Century European Art
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
In the latter 19th century, Walter Crane (1875–1915) was hailed as “the artist of the nursery” for his playful and charming illustrations of beloved fairy tales.
Crane’s illustrations for children’s books incorporated the latest artistic trends, in particular the burgeoning Aesthetic movement and its idealization of “art for art’s sake.” On Wednesday, April 9, Crane scholar Morna Elizabeth O’Neill will give a lecture on this notable and versatile artist, offering expanded perspective on the Museum’s exhibition Lullaby and Goodnight—Children’s Literature from the Morse Collection. Crane, along with Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway—an artist featured in the Morse exhibition—is considered one of the three most influential children’s illustrators of the 19th century.
The lecture begins at 2:30 p.m. in the McKean Pavilion, just behind the Museum, with a reception to follow.
While he was renowned in the world of children’s literature, Crane was also painter, decorator, designer, poet, author, teacher, art theorist, and socialist. His concern with the “cult of beauty,” says O’Neill, connects his work across media, from children’s book illustration to mythological painting and even to utopian political cartoon. In her talk, O’Neill—assistant professor of 18th- and 19th-century European art at Wake Forest University—will explore how Crane’s socialism develops out of his Aestheticism. He is unable to stop at “art for art’s sake,” she says, and instead seeks a program of “art for all.”
O’Neill received her bachelor’s degree in art history and Italian from Notre Dame and her doctoral degree in art history from Yale University. Widely published, her work on Crane includes Walter Crane: The Arts and Crafts, Painting, and Politics, 1875–1890 (2010) and the catalogue for the Whitworth Art Gallery exhibition “Art and Labour’s Cause is One:” Walter Crane and Manchester, 1880–1915 (2008). She is currently at work on her new book Hugh Lane, Inventor of the Global Art Market.