I recently discovered a photographic image of Eyre Crowe’s 1877 work ‘Sanctuary’ in a published compilation held at the National Library of Scotland. This painting has intrigued me ever since I began researching Crowe’s work. Contemporary newspaper and magazine reviews described the image in words, and on the whole were more united in praise of the picture than many of his previous or later works. The reviewer in the Art Journal wrote that it was ‘conceived in the true dramatic spirit’. ‘Artistically impressive’, claimed the Illustrated London News. ‘A quite important work’, was the verdict of The Academy. To the 19th century critics, ‘Sanctuary’ was the pinnacle of Eyre Crowe’s artistic achievements. Reviews of later works tended to be harsher.
Despite the fame of the painting at the time, however, it has since slid into obscurity. No other exhibitions of the work are noted after the Royal Academy summer exhibition of 1877. No sales at auction have been discovered. It was not one of the works remaining in Crowe’s possession at his death, so presumably was sold privately in his lifetime. Its current whereabouts are unknown. I am grateful to have the black and white photographic image, but it would be nice to see the woman’s bright red dress.
The meeting of Dante and Beatrice (La Vita Nuova) was painted in 1848, right at the start of Eyre Crowe’s career. The canvas, which is almost two metres wide, shows the influence of his Pre-Raphaelite friends, but also the device of a horizontal line of characters which Crowe employed throughout his career.
The painting does not seem ever to have been exhibited. It may have been sold soon after its execution. Crowe noted that it was up for sale at Christie’s in 1899 and noted in his diary his disappointment at the low price of 28 guineas. However, seeing it again after a long period, he wrote that the composition ‘looked thin and straggly’.
Today the estimated price for the work is £700-£1,000.
‘Hauling the boat ashore – coast of France‘, a stunning painting completed in 1871, is to be sold at auction by Atkins Auctions at Axminster, Devon, on Friday 5 August. It appears always to have been in private hands and to my knowledge, never exhibited. Showing a group of women believed to be in traditional Breton costume, pulling a wooden boat out of the water, it is one of a number of paintings by Eyre Crowe inspired by his regular trips to northern France.
The current owner of this vibrant watercolour painting has recently been kind enough to share the image and the details of its provenance with me. ‘Boulogne Fishmarket‘ was known to me only from a scant line in a Royal Academy exhibition catalogue. In 1922 it was part of an ‘Exhibition of Works by Recently Deceased Members of the Royal Academy’ (Eyre Crowe had in fact died in 1910) and was owned by a Reginald Gurney Esq. It was purchased from a Norwich art dealer in 1938 and has remained in the family ever since.
A busy fish market in a French town is depicted, with all the detail, action and humour to be expected of an Eyre Crowe image. He was a prolific sketcher and at least some of the people were probably drawn from life and would have been recognisable to their community.
Curiously, although the watercolour is clearly signed and dated ‘E. Crowe 1886’, the details of the scene correspond exactly with the review description of ‘Fish Market, Rouen‘, an oil painting exhibited at the Royal Academy two years earlier, in 1884. The watercolour seems to be a later copy of the oil painting.
The watercolour does not bear a title itself, so it seems likely that it was mis-interpreted as showing Boulogne sometime between 1884 and its exhibition in 1922. Is it really Rouen? Are there any experts on late-19th century northern France who could settle the question?
Today is, sadly, the first anniversary of the death of Sir Brian Crowe. He was a great-great nephew of Eyre Crowe, being descended from Eyre Crowe’s brother Sir Joseph Archer Crowe. Brian followed his father, grandfather and great-grandfather in pursuing a career in diplomacy. He had a great sense of history, and enabled myself and other researchers to discover more about his family by donating his collection of papers relating to his grandfather, Sir Eyre A. Crowe (1864-1925) to the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. He also gave a series of drawings and correspondence of Eyre Crowe to the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
I was privileged enough to meet Brian and his late wife Virginia on two occasions. He was extremely interested in my work to discover more about the artist Eyre Crowe, and I am very grateful for his kind support.
An obituary published in The Guardian is free to view (The Times also published an obituary, but it is behind a paywall), and well worth a read to discover more about his life and work.
Eyre Crowe’s 1880 genre work, Forfeits, is for sale at Christie’s in New York on 28 October 2019. The higher estimate, compared to other recent sales of Crowe’s work, probably reflects the charm, colour and quality of the scene. Ornate, wealthy interiors are rarely seen in Crowe’s paintings, although the arrangement of the figures in a line across the picture is a familiar technique.
This print based on Eyre Crowe’s 1873 Royal Academy painting Brothers of the Brush (1873) by Eyre Crowe was recently kindly shared with me by a private owner. This remarkably modern-looking composition was praised by contemporary critics, but the current whereabouts of the original painting is sadly not known.
I have been slow in updating this site recently, so here is an overview of what has been occurring in the world of Eyre Crowe’s artworks:
I was alerted to the publication in The Daily Graphic of a brief letter from Eyre Crowe and a sketch of steeplejacks repairing the steeple of Bromsgrove parish church. The item is listed under the title After The Great Gale: Repairing a Steeple (1891).
‘After the Great Gale: Repairing a Steeple’ by Eyre Crowe A.R.A. (1891)
‘The Meeting of Louis IX and Edward IV on the Bridge of Pecquigny’ by Eyre Crowe (1855)
Finally, three separate sets of sketches attributed to Eyre Crowe have come up for sale through various auction houses:
Three Figure Studies (19 April 1901 and n.d.). Medium: charcoal and pencil heightened with white. Size: largest 47 x 22 cm. Offered by Bellmans Auctioneers and Valuers, Billingshurst, West Sussex, 5 March 2018 (Lot 1071)
Eight sketches by Eyre Crowe, from the collection of Judith Adelman. Medium: pen and ink, pencil and wash. Size: various, largest 17 x 13 inches. Advertised in Weekly Internet Rare Books and Autographs Auctions #201537 by Heritage Auctions, 3-10 Sep 2015 (lot 92359)
Fifteen Figure Studies in Two Frames (various dates). Medium: pen, ink and washes. Size: smallest 10 x 3 cm, largest 17 x 27 cm. Attributed to Eyre Crowe and offered for sale by Cuttlestone’s auctioneers, Penkridge, Fine Art and Antiques Sale, 23-24 Nov 2017 (Lot 61). However, the style of the sketches is not exactly reminiscent of Eyre Crowe’s work, and none are signed by him (as was his usual practise), so I doubt the attribution.
Thank you to all the owners who have contacted me about Eyre Crowe pictures – it is always fascinating to hear about paintings and sketches in private hands.
The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1896, and in the autumn of the same year was shown at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. It was presumably sold around the same time, and disappeared into private hands until the death of its owner in 2014. By autumn 2016 it was owned by art dealer Brian Saunders, of Saunders Fine Art, who displayed it at the LAPADA and Olympia art shows.
Eyre Crowe returned in old age to the kind of historical scenes that had made his name in the 1860s, and liked to feel that he had done his research and presented historically accurate details. He visited Celle in the late summer of 1895 and undoubtedly sketched some of the details of the room there.
The online sale catalogue for the painting includes some further images, including close-ups of Crowe’s signature and the information on the gilt frame.
Eyre Crowe was a Victorian painter of historical and genre works of art, who exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1846 to 1908.
This site, which is a non-commercial appreciation of Crowe's life and work, contains biographical information, details of all his known paintings, auction records, images where available, details of exhibitions, contemporary reviews, and a full bibliography including links to other websites useful to those interested in 19th-century art.