Rhyming Pictures: Walter Crane and the Universal Language of Art

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This paper examines the idea of ‘art as writing’ in the work of Walter Crane (1845–1915). It explores his belief that art has the potential to become a universal language, and it relates it to his interest in social anarchism and the quest for a common language. Anarchism emerges as the thread connecting different aspects of his work with art and language: his association with the Esperanto movement, his polemical writings about the ‘language’ of design, and his educational collaborations with teachers who were prepared to use art to teach literacy. The paper pays close attention to two such collaborations: The Golden Primer (1884), co-authored with Professor J.M.D. Meiklejohn; and The Walter Crane Readers (1898–1902), co-authored with Miss Nellie Dale; projects which, in their different ways, enabled Crane to put his ideas about ‘art as writing’ into practice.
Translated title of the contributionRhyming Pictures: Walter Crane and the Universal Language of Art
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-73
Number of pages14
JournalWord and Image
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

Grace Brockington is Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of Bristol. She is author of *Above the Battlefield: Modernism and the Peace Movement in Britain, 1900-1918* (Yale University Press, 2010) and an edited collection *Internationalism and the Arts in Britain and Europe at the Fin de Siècle* (Peter Lang, 2009). The present article develops her research for the exhibition *Literary Circles: Artist, Author, Word and Image in Britain 1800-1920* (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 17 October - 30 December 2006).


  • Crane
  • Esperanto
  • anarchism
  • education


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