‘Sanctuary’ by Eyre Crowe A.R.A. (1877). Photograph taken from ‘The Royal Academy album: a series of photographs from works of art in the exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts’, ed Samuel Jennings, 1877. Credit The National Library of Scotland. Creative Commons licence CC-BY, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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.


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