Beginnings to the Golden Age: Thomas Crane (1843-1915)

Thomas Crane:

Thomas Crane was an English illustrator known for his ornamental designs and embellishments. He became the Director of Design at the London office of Marcus Ward and Co. where he supervised the design and sale of Christmas cards, a product popular in the 1880s. In addition, he frequently worked on illustrations for both the company’s Christmas cards and children’s books. Marcus Ward and Co.’s Christmas cards were known for their quality and were popular with art collectors. His designs of the Christmas cards have been praised by art critics, especially on the appropraite and most refined ornamentation on the borders and backs. Aside from his time at Marcus Ward and Co., Crane had also produced a series of celebrated books with other contemporary illustrators.

Thomas Crane is also known for his designs of needlework patterns. He was chosen as one of several artists to create needlework patterns for the Royal School of Needlework. His designs had helped the revival of artistic needlework and ornamental embroidery.

I find Thomas Crane’s illustrations absolutely beautiful, particularly in his use of colours. His illustrations found in his Christmas cards and children book illustrations use simple colouring and minimal shading but this allows him to create artworks with vibrant colours. While he is often overshadowed by his brother, Walter Crane, I still find myself preferring Thomas’ pieces as I love his elaboration and ornamentation.


Christmas Greeting Cards
Victorian Christmas Card
In the British Museum (1843, Colour Lithograph)
Abroad (1882)
Embroidery Design for a Cushion



  • 1903, Born: 1843 | Died: “Thomas Crane.” Illustration History,
  • Gleeson White, Christmas Cards and their Chief Designers(London: Offices of The Studio, 1895), 16-17.

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