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The Baby’s Own Æsop, illustrated by Walter Crane  (London, New York: Routledge, 1887)
Photo credit: http://mythfolklore.net/aesopica/crane/
Crane’s interest in Japanese art is evident in this 1874 cover of a 
toy book, printed by Edmund Evans
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Illustrator: Walter Crane

I have endeavoured to collect all my posts on Jean de La Fontaine (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695), most of which are also discussions of Æsop‘s FablesWe have now discussed many fables by La Fontaine and ÆsopMy list may therefore be incomplete.

The ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration

The illustrations shown in this post are by Walter Crane (1845–1915) who illustrated Æsop‘s Fables adapted for children. Crane lived during the ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration. His contemporaries were Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, Arthur Rackham, Sir John Tenniel (Alice in Wonderland), and other celebrated illustrators.

Japonism of Toy Books

Crane was influenced by Japonisme: ukiyo-e prints. In England, Japonism was called the Anglo-Japanese Style. The Alphabet of Old Friends, shown above, one of Crane’s toy books, is an example of Japonism both from the point of view of subject matter (e.g. the heron or crane, the oranges) and style: flat colours, etc.

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Healthy and Artistic Dress Union

However, Crane is usually associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (middle of 19th century onward) and the Arts and Crafts Movement (1860 and 1910), movements that incorporated the decorative arts and design.  William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896), a leading member of both movements, designed wallpaper and tiles.  Interestingly, Walter Crane designed not only wallpaper, etc., but clothes for women, looser-fitting clothes.  He was in fact a Vice President of the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union.  This, I would not have suspected.

At first sight, Walter Crane’s moral for the “Fox and the Grapes” seems rather negative, if one focusses on the word disappointment: “The grapes of disappointment are always sour.”  However, this moral may serve to lessen cognitive dissonance, if the grapes are deemed sour.  Since Æsop‘s Fables are for anyone to retell, morals may differ from author to author.

La Fontaine’s illustrators

Walter Crane was a fine artist. He is the creator of “Neptune’s Horses,” an artwork that is somewhat reminiscent of Hokusai‘s Great Wave off Kanagawa. “Neptune’s Horses” is featured at the very bottom of this post. However, although Crane illustrated Æsop‘s Fables, and, by extension, some of La Fontaine’s Æsopic fables, the most famous illustrators of La Fontaine’s Fables are Jean-Baptiste Oudry, François ChauveauJean Ignace Isidore Gérard Grandville, Gustave Doré, and others, some of whom I have already mentioned and some I will mention in future posts.

The Video

YouTube has a lovely video featuring Walter Crane’s art. However, it does not show his illustrations of fables. It does not fully belong to this post. The music is Franz Schubert‘s (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) Ständchen, D. 957.

FABLES by Jean de La Fontaine 
(I like the fable entitled “The Man and the Snake” [X.1])



Franz Schubert: Ständchen, D. 957

Crane© Micheline Walker
24 September 2013 
Neptune’s Horses, 1892
Photo credit: Google Images
(Please click on the image to enlarge it.)