#Waterloo200. Eyre Crowe, Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo

June 6, 2015

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.

His earliest paintings with a Napoleonic theme were shown as a pair at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1879 – Marat: 13th July, 1793, and Execution of the Duc d’Enghien, 1804.

Hougoumont, the day after the battle (1886) by Eyre Crowe A.R.A.

Hougoumont, June 1815, the day after the battle (1886) by Eyre Crowe A.R.A.

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.

'Napoleon's Abdication' by Eyre Crowe A.R.A. (1902)

‘Napoleon’s Abdication’ by Eyre Crowe A.R.A. (1902). Reproduction from Royal Academy Pictures, 1902, p. 134

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.



1855 sketch by Eyre Crowe now owned by the V&A

March 4, 2015
Scuplture Gallery door-way at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, by Eyre Crowe (1855)

Scuplture Gallery door-way at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, by Eyre Crowe (1855)

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.

Newly-discovered Eyre Crowe slavery painting on display in Richmond, Virginia

November 27, 2014
Engraving of 'A Slave Sale in Charleston, South Carolina' by Eyre Crowe (1854)

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).

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.


Eyre Crowe’s slavery paintings in context

November 26, 2014
'Slaves Waiting for Sale' by Eyre Crowe (1861). Heinz collection, Washington DC  Published in Guy C. Elroy, 'Facing History: the Black Image in American Art, 1710-1940'

‘Slaves Waiting for Sale’ by Eyre Crowe (1861). Heinz collection, Washington DC Published in Guy C. Elroy, ‘Facing History: the Black Image in American Art, 1710-1940’

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.


‘The Poultry Yard’ up for sale

November 6, 2013
'The Poultry Yard' by Eyre Crowe (1900)

‘The Poultry Yard’ by Eyre Crowe A.R.A. (1900)

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).


The painting sold for 14,000 Rand (£847)

Thomas Carlyle painting to be auctioned

September 4, 2013
'Thomas Carlyle looking at the Duke of Buccleuch's miniatures of Cromwell' (1895) by Eyre Crowe ARA

‘Thomas Cromwell looking at the Duke of Buccleuch’s miniatures of Cromwell’ (1895) by Eyre Crowe ARA

An auction house in Melbourne, Australia, is shortly to sell an original oil painting by Eyre Crowe. On 3 December, Leonard Joel Auctions will sell Thomas Carlyle Looking at the Duke of Buccleuch’s Miniatures of Cromwell, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1895. An original label attached to the back of the painting explains that Crowe produced the painting from a sketch made in 1879, when the miniatures were displayed at Burlington House (the home of the Royal Academy).


The painting sold for $AUS 4,200 (£2,330).

Life drawing of a standing female nude (1846)

February 19, 2013
Life drawing of a standing female nude, by Eyre Crowe (1846)

Life drawing of a standing female nude, by Eyre Crowe (1846)

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.

Searching the Royal Academy Collections

February 19, 2013

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:

Only the first of these works were previously known to me.

Painting of Eyre Crowe’s sister Eugenie Maria Wynne

August 30, 2012
Mrs Eugenie Maria Wynne (c.1850)

Mrs Eugenie Maria Wynne (c.1850) (c) Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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.

New book featuring Eyre Crowe’s slavery pictures

January 3, 2012

Cover of Maurie D. McInnes, 'Slaves Waiting for Sale' (University of Chicago Press, 2011)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.