Back in July of last year I made a post Man of Mystery, Donn P. Crane about a childhood idol, the illustrator Donn P. Crane.
As I mentioned in the post, Crane’s magical illustrations sustained me through a challenging childhood, providing me with a glimpse into a world far removed from my own grim reality. I feel deeply indebted to the man, his work encouraged my interests, developed my taste, and broadened my horizons.
Once again I say thank you Mr. Crane.
I was shocked to discover how little information was out there concerning Donn P. Crane, a very prolific artist, of immense talents,had left barely a trace.
I had hoped to remedy that in some way with my modest post.
I was thunderstruck when his grand-daughter Ann contacted me with information concerning this great artist.
That she happened to contact me on my birthday only added to my joy.
Donn P. Crane
Recquiscat in Pace
I really enjoy this image, he is so sweet faced, seems quite kind; his work reflects that tenderness.
I must confess I hesitate to release these images, my greedy nature wishes to hoard the treasures. That wouldn’t be fair to Crane’s legacy.
From his grand-daughters telling, Donn P. Crane was born in Missouri in 1878, the son of Day Otis Crane. Day Otis Crane, a failed miner, was unable to provide the stability so essential to childhood; perhaps young Donn retreated early on into the magical world of illustration for a sense of security and solace. I hope so.
From Missouri the family moved to Washington D.C. when young Donn was two; another move, this time to to Idaho was where a sister and two brothers were born, unfortunately the brothers did not survive. The Crane family ultimately settled in Chicago sometime before 1890. Young Donn was involved with a theatre troupe, this early involvement with the stage is clearly reflected in some of his more dramatic illustrations.
My Book House
Upon his mother’s death, Donn moved ,as so many artists have, to New Mexico. Amidst the grand landscape Donn found inspiration, I imagine it was particularly liberating after the restrictions of monetary deprivation and urban chaos.
The following illustration, provided by the family, is from the New Mexico period. It is quite a gem.
Donn did return to Chicago in 1909 where he began his long and quite prolific career.
The following image from Chats with Color Kins 1909 was his first professional illustrating job. The book was published by the Theosophical Press of Wheaton Illinois.
Chats with Color Kin
Donn married in 1911, began his family with a daughter in 1912, and a son , also named Donn Philip Crane, in 1915 ( the father of Ann).
What is so impressive, and frankly dis-heartening as an artist, is that Donn was self taught. Ann describes finding self improving books on art instruction (in German) and puppetry amongst his belongings. His skill was so advanced, it is difficult to comprehend that he was without training; clearly a keen observer.
The following image is tagged “Brain Storm” by the family, it is a touching image. I love the carefully stacked volumes, possible sources of inspiration?
Donn Philip Crane senior died in 1944, not receiving the laurels he deserved, but he did leave behind a family devoted to preserving his legacy.
I sincerely thank the Crane family for sharing these very special treasures.
My Book House