At the end of 19th and beginning of 20th century picture books experienced so-called golden age. Walter Crane's work for engraver and printer Edmund Evans was probably the top example of books for kids in those times. This cooperation resulted in numerous works which are actually hard to count because Mr. Evans tried to exploit all available materials in as many possible forms. Mr. Crane, who paid all attention to the details and is rightly called one of the real fathers of the picture book as a specific media wasn't very happy with his attitude (he wasn't only illustrator but designer as well) what eventually led to the end of this fruitful and very profitable cooperation. For today's post we decided to use illustration from a famous fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk, often advertised as the most popular fairy tale of all times (not true, but not so far from). Walter Crane as always did a terrific job at illustrations, layouts, font design and even an adaptation of the tail (he also wrote a couple of original tales) in his signature Art Nouveau style.
We'll start with a two page block in black and white color. Well, paint is red and paper is yellow, but the technology is the same. Crane's fans believe his mastery is best seen at line drawings like this.
Next illustration is incorporated into inside title page with all essential data about the publisher and author. We can see it's actually a reprint (for your info it was published in 1900), simultaneously made for London and New York.
Now for the story. It started with a sad fact - the cow must go and Jack must sell it. The illustrator decided to present two scenes in the same picture. First one is shown in the background, because it belongs to the past, the scene, where the most important decision - the exchange of a grown up cow for a mere hope - is in front.
Next picture shows three scenes at once. First is mother's disappointment. She is mad at her son and throws the beans away. But next morning (see Jack at the window?) proves he made a right decision. These beans are truly special. Or not? He has to limb the beanstalk to find out and this scene dominates the picture. Among other things we clearly see how another media - comic books was developed on the similar foundations like this one used by Walter Crane.
We all wonder what waits up there and Jack fund a whole new world. Women, who opens the door of the castle is quiet nice, but the master of the house is a different story. He is a giant ...
Next scene is portrayed in block pages. It depicts the hall with a sleeping giant and Jack stealing his precious hen. She is laying golden eggs and is a symbol of wealth. The sleeping giant on the other hand presents a wealthy man who is too careless to deserve keeping his treasures. The new order is coming, power and money will change hands! Such two-paged illustrations were always among the most powerful ones in Walter Crane's picture books.
Stealing is the major part of the story. It's fun and dangerous - the winning combination of a successful story. As we often find out there are three gigs to complete. In this case Jack has to get the money, the hen and the singing harp.
The giant will eventually find out and confrontation of both major characters inevitable. It's obvious who will win in a direct fight, so Jack doesn't have too much to think about. He must run.
Did you notice Jack managed to grow a moustache during the story? He grew up and we'll soon find out if he is ready to defeat the giant. When an ogre approaches, he needs to find a fast solution. Can he beat the might opponent in his world?
He couldn't do without help, but with a proper tool (and attitude) even the giants can't stop him!
Thanks for being here. Don't hesitate sharing this post with your friends. Stories are told and written to connect us all. We had an honor to spend a few moments with Walter Crane and his magnificent pictures from Jack and the Beanstalk