Earlier this month, this pencil and charcoal drawing, Life drawing of a standing female nude (1846) was sold for £1,250 at Bonham’s in Chester. Nude works by Eyre Crowe are very rare indeed. It was probably drawn as part of an organised nude drawing class, either at the Royal Academy Schools (Crowe entered the schools as a probationer in July 1845) or at a private class or art club.
The Royal Academy’s collection of works of art, books, archives and exhibition catalogues can be searched online. There aren’t many results for Eyre Crowe – just some photographs – but a new series of catalogues of winter and special exhibitions has just been added to the database, and reveals that five of Eyre Crowe’s works were shown in the 1922 exhibition of Works by Recently Deceased Members of the Royal Academy:
- Portrait of Sir Joseph A. Crowe, K.C.M.G. C.B. (1891)
- Boulogne Fishmarket (1886)
- The Sun Bonnet (undated)
- Cook : a sketch (1853)
- Nurse : a sketch (1853)
Only the first of these works were previously known to me.
Eyre Crowe painted this picture of his sister Eugenie around the time of her wedding to Robert William Wynne. The painting is featured on the BBC – Your Paintings website, which also contains details of 11 other Crowe works owned by public institutions in the UK.
Maurie D. McInnes has just published Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade (Chicago University Press, 2011), which is a detailed and lavishly illustrated examination of Eyre Crowe’s picture Slaves Waiting For Sale (1861), as compared with other contemporary artworks relating to slavery in the American South.
Eyre Crowe visited the southern states of America in 1852-1853 and was intrigued and appalled by the slave trade there. His experiences led him to create a series of sketches and paintings intended to further the abolitionist cause. Each of these are described in more detail in the ‘Slavery Pictures’ part of this website.
The American owner of ‘Bob-Cherry‘ (1871) has very kindly got in touch to let me know that his family has been in possession of the painting since at least the 1940s – probably since its sale in London in 1937. He also sent a photograph of the painting, which tallies almost exactly with the descriptions of the work which appeared in newspaper reviews of the time. Click on the link to find out more about this painting of Bluecoat schoolboys at play.
One hundred years ago today, on 12 December 1910, Eyre Crowe died at the age of 86. It seemed to his obituarist in The Times (13 December 1910) that he ‘had long outlived any artistic celebrity that he may once have had’ – that he was a relic of the mid-Victorian age, an artist who had lived so long that he had been virtually forgotten. The journalists who reported his death may indeed have had to look up his achievements. Despite continual participation in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition every year until 1908, it was true that Crowe’s longevity had not been matched by critical and financial success in his latter years.
One hundred years later, it is possible to look back at the full sweep of Crowe’s life and career without prejudice, and to appreciate the artworks created by him, many now regarded as interesting and vivid depictions of prosaic contemporary life, such as slaves waiting to be sold, mill girls on their lunch break, a crush at the theatre door, and men working in an iron foundry.
To commemorate Crowe’s life, I left a cheerful plant next to the grave in which he was buried with his father and nephew, at Kensal Green cemetery in west London.
A digital image of Eyre Crowe’s 1855 sketch Delivery Entrance of Palais des Beaux Arts at the Exposition Universelle of 1855, owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, has been made available on the Museum’s website. The sketch shows a busy scene as porters bring in works of art to be displayed at the Paris exhibition.