Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts in Art History and Visual Culture



First Advisor

Dr. Trent Olsen

Second Advisor

Dr. James Hutson

Third Advisor

Professor Kelly Scheffer


The curiosity of the Walter Crane Fan, an autograph fan created in 1895, is that despite featuring forty signatures of famed artists, writers, musicians and public figures, it has received little critical examination. The re-discovery of the Walter Crane Fan when it came to auction, prompted its inclusion in The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 exhibition originally held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2011. Then, the Crane Fan was the focus of Robyne Calvert’s essay “An Artistic Fan in Victorian Society” in Connecting Whistler: Essays in Honour of Margaret F. Macdonald. However, to date, no scholarship has examined the fan within the socio-cultural context of 1895. This thesis does so by offering a unique dissection of the artist’s medallions featured on the fan, including connecting a previously undiscovered source to Walford Graham Robertson’s addition to the Crane Fan. This thesis highlights the performative nature of the autograph fan, by comparing the Crane Fan with Constance Wilde’s autograph book of 1894. During the year the Crane Fan was completed, Oscar Wilde was arrested on grounds of gross indecency. Following his arrest, Wilde’s performance of feminine characteristics, particularly his decorative dressing style, was labeled as problematic. Thus, this thesis considers the reaction to Wilde’s arrest and the signatures of James Abbott McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent on the Crane Fan. This thesis concludes that Whistler and Sargent used the fan as a vehicle for the performance of gender and sexuality. Operating with this in mind, this thesis argues that Whistler and Sargent questioned sexuality, gender roles, and acceptable behavior for the bohemian artist and English dandy. Overall, the thesis operates as an example of how a nineteenth century autograph fan can be examined as an object of socio-cultural importance.


Copyright 2022, Caroline Haller.