This oil painting on canvas has recently come to light after being in private ownership for at least 50 years. The previous owner was a world traveller and the estate contained many fine pieces – Meissen, Lalique, etc. along with other original art work.
It is a large picture – 38 x 48 inches, untitled, but signed and dated 1880. From its subject matter and size, is quite likely to be ‘Landscape with stream and figures – The Lovers’, which was sold at auction by Messrs Furber at 77 Chancery Lane, London, on 22 February 1911. This auction was a sale of Eyre Crowe’s remaining works after his death. Many of the pictures were sold for just a few shillings, indicating that most were sketches in pen or oil. However, ‘The Lovers’ sold for £1, indicating that the picture was relatively finished.
The canvas that Crowe used was bought in France – this fits with what is known of Crowe’s usual purchases of artist’s supplies.
The family of the owner are looking to sell this painting – please contact me if you are interested and I can pass your details on.
Quite a few Eyre Crowe works have come up for sale in 2015, and were formerly unknown to me. Doctor Johnson Receiving Boswell in the Library (1899) is an interesting piece, harking back to Crowe’s heyday in the 1850s and 1860s when his pictures depicting moments from literary history were popular. It is reminiscent of A Scene at the Mitre; Dr Johnson, Boswell, Goldsmith (1857). Crowe’s other major picture commemorating Dr Johnson, The Penance of Dr Johnson (1869), can be seen on display at Dr Johnson’s House Museum in London.
The delightful ‘A Trouville’ is an undated watercolour sketch of the scene on the beach in this Normandy town. Crowe usually travelled to France every summer, evidenced by a crop of pictures set in France. School at the Aitre, St Maclou, Rouen (1883), Fish Market, Rouen (1884), and A Honeymoon in Normandy, Lisieux (1885), are fully worked oil paintings inspired by Crowe’s summer holidays.
‘The New Recruit’ is an interesting narrative picture, apparently set in the present day of, presumably, the 1860s or 1870s. The background seems to show a grim industrial landscape, like that depicted in Crowe’s famous The Dinner Hour, Wigan (1874). Its small size (21.3 x 26.9 inches – 54 x 68.2 cm) suggests that it may have been destined for the Dudley Gallery’s annual exhibition of ‘cabinet’ paintings in oil. The auctioneer in 2015 described the picture as only ‘attributed’ to Eyre Crowe, but the style is very distinctly his. The frieze of different characters across the foreground of the picture is a device often used by Crowe.
One other picture also came up for sale in 2015: ‘Woman Knitting’ (sold as ‘Strickende Bauerin’), a pencil and watercolour sketch measuring 21.7 x 16.9 inches (55 x 43 cm). It has the date 1909 – the last known work by Eyre Crowe.
With the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo coming up on 18 June, it came to my mind how many Napoleonic scenes Eyre Crowe produced during his long career. Curiously, for an artist who exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, Crowe never painted anything from the point of view of the British army fighting in the Napoleonic Wars – but perhaps this is not so strange when we consider that Crowe grew up in Paris and maintained connections with his French friends and half-siblings throughout his life.
Seven years later, ‘Hougoumont‘ garnered some critical acclaim. Depicting a group of defeated French soldiers after the Battle of Waterloo, Crowe’s original caption describes the scene: ‘Leaving Hougoumont, my attention was called to a group of wounded Frenchmen by the calm, dignified and soldier-like oration addressed by one of them to the rest. The speaker was sitting on the ground with his lance stuck upright beside him – a veteran lancer of the old guard, who had no doubt fought on many a field’.
In 1891, a simple genre scene of a woman helping her son to write a letter was given a historical theme. Entitled Writing a Message to St Helena, it showed the Empress Marie-Louise – Napoleon’s second wife – and their son the Roi de Rome – writing to Napoleon in exile on the island of St Helena.
Another Napoleonic painting, exhibited in 1895, was quirkier. Le Petit Chapeau: The Hat Worn by the Emperor Napoleon at Waterloo, was a still-life of a large hat owned by Crowe’s good friend, the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme.
Crowe’s final Napoleonic offering was Napoleon’s Abdication (1902). Crowe’s artistic powers were in heavy decline by this point in his long life. It is hard to disagree with the opinion of the critic in The Builder, who described it as ‘… about the worst Napoleon picture ever painted’. Crowe even had the assistance of H.A. Bowler, the Royal Academy’s Professor of Perspective, in tackling the tricky octagonal ceiling, but clearly failed in making it convincing. Nevertheless, someone paid £14 for it in the auction of Crowe’s possessions after his death. This is one of the many Crowe paintings whose present ownership is unknown. Despite its artistic failings, it would be good to know if it is still hanging, cherished, on someone’s wall.
A sketch made by Eyre Crowe in 1855, showing the delivery of sculptures to the Exposition Universelle in Paris, was purchased by the V&A in London in 2012. An image of the sketch, together with information about it, has been made available on the V&A website. The sketch is remarkably similar to another: Crowe’s Delivery Entrance of Palais des Beaux Arts at the Exposition Universelle of 1855, which is now owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The two sketches are the same size, and are on the same subject (the setting up of the artistic parts of the exhibition), and most likely were made within days of each other, in the same sketchbook – now broken up and the individual sketches sold off separately.
A Slave Sale in Charleston, South Carolina is well known from engravings, such as the coloured version shown here, but the whereabouts of the original painting, first exhibited at The Royal Scottish Academy in 1854, has hitherto been unknown. It was discovered in the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, Cuba, by staff at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and made known to the academic Maurie McInnes, whose research into the slave trade in Richmond, Virginia, and artistic representations of it, was based around Eyre Crowe’s even more famous painting, Slaves Waiting for Sale, Richmond, Virginia (1861).
McInnes has now curated an exhibition at the Library of Virginia: To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade, which explores the dynamics of the slave trade. The exhibition features three of Eyre Crowe’s paintings: Slaves Waiting for Sale, Richmond, Virginia, lent from the private collection of Teresa Heinz; After the Sale: Slaves Going South from Richmond (1853), lent by the Chicago History Museum; and a full-size facsimile of A Slave Sale in Charleston, South Carolina.
The exhibition is described in an article by the Richmond Times Dispatch, and is open until 30 May 2015.
A fascinating article by Maurie D. McInnes, professor of art history at the University of Virginia, is available online. It explores Eyre Crowe’s 1853 trip to Richmond, Virginia, and the legacy of the sketches and paintings that he made depicting the slave trade there. His most famous slavery painting, Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia, was exhibited in London in 1861.
McInnis, Maurie D. “Eyre Crowe’s Images of the Slave Trade.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 4 Sep. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.