Sunday, 27 February 2011

Weaving in Walter Crane’s loose ends: friends or acquaintances?

So far I have found some mutual interests between the Peasant Arts movement and Walter Crane that I highlighted in previous posts: that Walter Crane was a Vice President of the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union when Godfrey and Ethel Blount were on the Committee, and that Walter Crane admired peasant clothing and travelled Europe admiring examples of it.  I have found some more connections, but before I go into them let us consider whether Walter Crane and the Blounts were actually friends or just acquaintances?
from The Baby's Own Aesop, 1887 taken from Crane, WalterTriplets, 
George Routledge & Sons, London, 1899.
Printed by Edmund Evans of Witley

Crane and Godfrey Blount were both artists, with a fascination for peasant clothing and they both sat on the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union committee between 1904-1906 and maybe longer.   In addition, Crane had links to the local area: his printer friend Edmund Evans lived in nearby Witley (as did Joseph and Maude Egerton King from 1894) and Crane was a socialist, friends with George Bernard Shaw (who gave a speech at Joseph’s King house in 1930, and in 1898 gave a lecture to the Microscope Society on Kings Road on ‘Why I am a Socialist’), G.F. Watts in nearby Compton and painted the sign for The Fox and Pelican pub in nearby Grayshott.  Another connection is that Crane was a member of the Institute of Painters in Watercolour from 1882-1886, Henry George Hine (Ethel Blount and Maude Egerton King’s father) was a member of the Institute from 1863 and became Vice President on the Institute in 1887. 
George Bernard Shaw c.1900 from Winter and Collyer, Around Haslemere 
and Hindhead in Old Photographs, Alan Sutton Publishing, 1991

It is doubtless therefore that Walter Crane was acquainted with the Peasant Arts movement, it would be easy to assume that due to so many shared interests, Crane was friends with Godfrey Blount and others.  Having thought this through though, I have concluded that this is incorrect.  Walter Crane, the prolific producer of commercial art and friend of William Morris held different beliefs from the Peasant ‘artists’. 
Was Godfrey Blount the black sheep of the arts & crafts movement?!
From Baby's Opera, taken from Crane, Walter, Triplets, 
George Routledge & Sons, London, 1899.
Printed by Edmund Evans of Witley

Blount’s “assertion that the amateur is the only artist and merchant” was at odds with Crane’s more traditional pursuit of publication.  Greville MacDonald nicely sums up this difference between Godfrey Blount and other artists at the time "That artist (Godfrey Blount) had revealed his genius for design in a truly noble book Arbor Vitae, which will yet be accepted as the one inspiring manual on the subject.  If he, in addition to his intense faith in handicraft, and his unremitting industry in securing its practical recognition, had envinced some personal ambition - of which no man I ever knew had less - his work and influence would be this time have stood alongside of William Morris's - and perhaps of a surer stability because dissociated from political illusions." (MacDonald, 1932, Reminiscences of a Specialist, London, George Allen and Unwin).

Crane did work on tapestry, but this was on William Morris’ first figure piece tapestry, which used Crane’s “Goose-girl” design (Crane says in his An Artist’s Reminiscences that this is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but I cannot find it).

from Crane, Walter, The Song of Sixpence,
John Lane,  London 1909.
Printed by Edmund Evans of Witley
Crane had visited the local Haslemere area. His friend the printer Edmund Evans, who collaborated with Crane on various publications, such as The Baby’s Opera lived in nearby Witley.  Next door lived Myles Birket Foster, the famous artist.  And down the road at Sandhills lived Helen Allingham, another artist.

In 1876 Crane recalls visiting Edmund Evans “ I remember my wife and I went to stay at Mr. Evan’s charming house at Witley, in Surrey and it was there that the general idea and the size and bulk of the book (The Baby’s Opera) were settled upon, Mr. Evan’s experience as a printer being most valuable in the pracrical details of cost and make up…Mr. Evan’s house was pleasantly situated on the brow of a hill commanding a view of Blackdown and the sunny Weald, associated with the home of Tennyson.” (Crane, Walter, An Artist's Reminscences, Macmillan Company, 1907).  Crane met Birket Foster on that occasion.  The Baby’s Opera had published over 40,000 copies by the time Crane wrote An Artist’s Reminiscences.

The Fox and Pelican pub sign by Walter Crane

Walter Crane’s involvement in the Grayshott and District Refreshment House Association with George Bernard Shaw is interesting.  According to Trotter (The Hilltop Writers, The Book Guild, 1996) this was formed “in 1898 when a local brewer threatened to install a conventional public house at Grayshott…at that time there was a good deal of alarm at the spread of drunkenness among the working class, and temperance societies were active.  

'The Hazels' on Kings Road c. 1910:
this was a private temperance hotel, restaurant and confectioners
from Winter and Collyer, Around Haslemere and Hindhead in Old Photographs,
Alan Sutton Publishing, 1991

The Association sought to steer a path between excessive drinking and total abstinence.  They managed to pre-empt the brewer’s action by building The Fox and Pelican, a refreshment house…the only source of alcohol provided was ‘a little three-handled beer engine, hidden modestly away behind a curtain’.    The original inn sign was painted by Walter Crane, ostensibly because of his friendship with George Bernard Shaw, one of the drivers behind establishing The Fox and Pelican.  The sign shows a pelican sheltering it’s young under it’s wings from a fox.  The sign was missing for a long time, but happily it was tracked down by the Grayshott Archive last year (2010), and bought at auction for £3,500.
The Fox and Pelican pub c. 1899 with the writing side of the Crane sign facing
from Winter and Collyer, Around Haslemere and Hindhead in Old Photographs,
Alan Sutton Publishing, 1991

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...