Monday, January 16, 2012

Donn Philip Crane

Some of you perhaps have enjoyed the My BookHouse set of early 20th century books that collected stories, tales and legends for kids to understand and appreciate. Perhaps you inherited them from family or perhaps have seen them in quality used book stores. The illustrations are fondly remembered by many, and most of those illustrations were primarily the work of one artist, Donn P. Crane, a man I have admired for many many years and yet knew ab-so-lute-ly nothing about . . . until now.

Mr. Jaffe over at Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie kindly sent over a Crane bookplate and a heads up. Through his site, a lot of information falls into place via a link (babylonbaroque. wordpress) where some of Crane's descendants are in contact, as well as with Mr. Jaffe.

You can find info about Crane by linking to those two sites, and you can look here for some large scans I've made of a few of the MANY Crane drawings I have collected, admired and treasured over the years. I can post many more if some of you show interest.

Crane was prolific in illustrating history, legends and fairytales, mostly for the My BookHouse series in the 1st third of the xxth century. He worked in pen and ink and for color was limited to using various shadings of 3 colors, which to me is fascinating and enjoyable. If he had chosen to illustrate a comic strip, he could have rivaled the artistry of the great Hal Foster. But he chose to help inspire generations of kids to understand the world around them.

Really, please tell me you want to see more of Crane's work.

Carried away by the witchery of the clever, fascinating Cleopatra, the coarse, pleasure-loving Antony, master of the eastern Mediterranean, at once becomes her devoted slave. All matters of war and policy are completely forgotten.

Isis beseeching the sun god Ra, on behalf of Osiris

After his defeat by Aetius at Chalons, Attila withdraws the remnant of his host to a fortified wagon circle. There he prepares a pyre of saddles and horse-furnishings, on which to sacrifice himself if about to be taken captive.

Frey, god of sunshine, on his golden boar whose bristles symbolize the sunbeams, and Freya, his sister, in her chariot drawn by cats. As goddess of love, Freya entertained lovers and married pairs in her palace after death. Cats, as symbols of purring affection were sacred to her as doves were sacred to Venus; but when Christian missionaries said that Freya was not a goddess, but a demon, the Northern people said she was leader of the witches who held their hag-like revels on a barren mountain-top on the horrid Valpurgis-night, and hence to this very day a witch is always shown as being accompanied by a cat.


A lovely bookplate created for the artist himself.
Thanks Lew!


Annie said...

More, please! And thank you for the links. I am doing much research on an obscure artist or two myself. It's fascinating, trying to determine why some amazing artists go unrecognized, and tracking down a comprehensive record of their work. The bookplates are special gifts his family must treasure, and judging from the comments in the post at Babylon Baroque, his descendants are continuing his artistic legacy. I especially love the double page spread, along with the many other illustrations you've published here, and in the past.

Bob said...

Yes, more please!

roddy said...

i, too, would like to add my voice to the "more crane" contingent!

Thomas Haller Buchanan said...

Hurray, 3 voices emerging from the multitudes, we're getting somewhere.

Hug said...

Definitely want to see more. I recognise the style, I have read books illustrated by him. I just can't remember which.

Leonard Greco said...

I confess I just re-stumbled upon your site, I found it some months ago but it become lost in the ever mounting pile of blogs to visit. I will quickly remedy that.
I am the author of Babylon Baroque and as you can guess a huge Crane fan. I would love to put together a complete a collection as possible of Donn's lifework. so very happy to see the see the scanned images from Book House. I have a family set, including History, but I fear they are fragile and brittle; i haven't the courage to make copies. In fact I rarely open them.Your images are of tremendous value to me and my own work. Thanks, Leonard @ Babylon Baroque and

Unknown said...

Just found your site while searching Donn P. Crane. I grew up with my father's set of "My Book House," all 6 volumes ca. 1932, I think. I read every single story many times over, and the set is among my most treasured heirlooms. I pored over Donn P. Crane's illustrations. They amplified those cherished stories in an indelible way. To put my post into a timeline, I am nearly 60 and my father was born in 1924.