MANCHESTER, UK.- For the first time an extraordinary archive of material from the studio of British artist Walter Crane will be fully conserved and catalogued since being rescued from being sold abroad in 2002 thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The award of £214,000 will allow the Whitworth Art Gallery and John Rylands University to jointly employ three posts, conservator, cataloguer and archivist, who will be based at the University of Manchester. These experts will conserve and catalogue over 3,000 items from the late 19th and early 20th century Arts and Crafts movement, ensuring they can be seen and enjoyed by the public.
Many of the objects in the archive are currently in a fragile condition, which makes them difficult to handle and exhibit. The items will need to be cleaned, repaired, mounted and stored. All the objects will be photographed and catalogued, and all the information and images will be made available on the Whitworth Art Gallery website at www.manchester.ac.uk/whitworth.
The money will also enable the team to make the archive available to new audiences. For example online children's pages, related to Cranes pioneering work as an illustrator of childrens books, will be created and an exhibition of previously unseen material will be displayed at The Whitworth Art Gallery and The John Rylands University Library to mark the completion of the project.
Explaining the importance of the grant, Heritage Lottery Funds regional manager, Tony Jones, said The archive is a very important historical record and its vital that we preserve it for future generations. Many of the items are in a very fragile condition and would be at risk of being lost forever if the conservation work didnt take place. Its fantastic news that previously unseen paintings and illustrations will now go on display for everyone to enjoy.
Walter Crane (1845-1915) played a pivotal role in British and international art and design during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Whitworth Art Gallery and The John Rylands University Library, both of The University of Manchester, jointly purchased this important archive in 2002 with the assistance of a grant of £282,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Friends of the Whitworth, Friends of the National Libraries and the National Art Collections Fund also contributed funding for the acquisition.
The acquisition of the Walter Crane Archive by The University of Manchester not only guaranteed that the archive remained in the UK, but also brought it to a city which houses extensive collections of objects associated with the Arts & Crafts movement, and which has played an important part in the history of socialism. Placing the Crane Archive in these wider contexts offers exciting opportunities for new strategies of access to the thousands of objects included in it. Having acquired the Crane Archive in 2003, The Whitworth Art Gallery and The John Rylands University Library take seriously the further responsibility to make it accessible to their existing and potential visitors, and to inspire in these visitors a passionate interest in the artistic, political and social stories the Archive has to tell.
As a founding member of both the Art Workers Guild and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, Walter Crane was a major figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. Crane's work as a book illustrator was successful both in terms of books sold and in the extension of sophisticated book production techniques to the cheap book market. The sense of design and skilful absorption of varied historical influences demonstrated in the book illustrations was also characteristic of Crane's work as an interior decorator and commercial designer employed by the major manufacturers of his day, in ceramics, glass, textiles and wallpaper. Crane was among a number of artists, including William Morris, whose commitment to socialism informed their subject matter, their methods of work, and their beliefs in the role and duties of the artist. At the end of the 19th century, when The Whitworth Art Gallery and The John Rylands Library were first opening their doors to the people of Manchester, Crane was regarded as one of the leading figures of the Arts and Crafts movement and a prominent and internationally renowned representative of British design.