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.
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.
Engraving of ‘A Slave Sale in Charleston, South Carolina’ by Eyre Crowe (1854)
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).
An auction house in South Africa is shortly to sell a landscape oil painting by Eyre Crowe. Originally entitled ‘The Poultry Yard‘ when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1900, it is now known as ‘Feeding the Chickens’.
The painting was last sold in Newbury, Berkshire, in 2005, for £800. Its most recent provenance is the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg. It will be sold on 11 November by Strauss and Co. auctioneers, at the Wanderers Club, Illovo, South Africa, as part of the South African and International Art auction. It is the first lot in the auction, with a guide price of 10-15,000 Rand (£600-£900).
This website replaces my old site (www.geocities.com/eyre_crowe)
It includes all the same information about Eyre Crowe and his artworks, but with a brand new look and feel.
Click on the tabs at the top to see articles relating to Eyre Crowe and his life. The ‘Pictures’ tab is the place to start to find out more about all of Eyre Crowe’s known paintings, drawings and sketches.
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Eyre Crowe (1824-1910)
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.