Archive for the Donn P. Crane Category

Donn P. Crane, Man of Mystery Revealed

Posted in 20th century, Chats with Color Kin, Divine Comedy, Donn P. Crane, Faust, My Book House on January 6, 2011 by babylonbaroque

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

b. 1878

d. 1944

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.

Illustration from A Dream of the Middle Ages;from the Italian of The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri

My Book House

Illustration from Faust

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.


New Mexico

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?

Brain Storm

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.

Illustration from A Dream of the Middle Ages; from the Italian of the DivineComedy by Dante Aligheri

My Book House


Respectfully submitted,


Man of Mystery, Donn P. Crane

Posted in 20th century, Donn P. Crane, My Book House, Walter Crane on July 17, 2010 by babylonbaroque

My background was very modest, little thought was given to music, art, or culture. Survival sucked up most of my parents energy and attention. With my parents so very distracted, I withdrew into my own world, my greatest solace, the source of so much that I love to this day, was an enchanting set of books called “My Book House”. They were arranged from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I inhaled every volume, Shakespeare, Wagner, Greek mythology, Aesop’s fables, tales of chivalry, enchanting world after enchanting world. My particular set was published in 1937 and edited by Olive Beaupre Miller.

I was particularly taken with the numerous images accompanying every tale, poem, or light history. Many of the illustrations were by a fellow named Donn P. Crane.

This particular image was produced in 1920, I haven’t researched the twelve volumes  in a while, so I am unsure as to which tale he is illustrating. As you can see his composition is flawless, simple lines evoke so much depth and charm. I was delighted as a boy, and I find myself still delighted.

Many of the illustrations were black and white, his line work compensated for the lack of coloring.


Isn’t the leprechaun adorable?

Many of the illustrations were of a very limited palette , orange and turquoise. As a boy I did not like this palette, it felt limiting, cold, and alienating. If it hadn’t been for Mr.Crane’s magic, I wouldn’t have been able to endure the Howard Johnson’s color-way. I now of course love the combination, the use of opposites is powerful, it allows nuance and subtlety, and I imagine satisfied either budget or printing restrictions.

What I have always wondered about was if there was a connection to Walter Crane and Donn P. Crane. I see stylistic similarities, I have long fantasized that Donn was a son. I have lazily researched this topic and come up short. If anyone has a clue to Mr. Donn P. Crane’s history I would be delighted to know. Mr. Crane shaped my childhood, my taste was cultivated by his work and I still find myself inspired by the fantasy he created.

Thank you Mr. Crane

The set of “My Book House” that I grew up with is most like the bottom selection, a handsome dark navy. My mother, who was the first owner of the set remembers a fanciful bookshelf shaped like a little house. So very charming, but lost to time.

Another remnant of my mother’s childhood that enhanced my own rather bleak one, was a set of Victorian bookends, heavy ,ponderous and pretentious,shaped like a Regency bookshelf,they charmingly quote Shakespeare with “My library was Dukedom large enough”; with Crane and “My Book House” it certainly was.