Eyre Crowe’s art: The 1850s

One of the most formative periods in Eyre Crowe’s life was the six months he spent in America in 1852-1853, accompanying William Makepeace Thackeray on his lecture tour of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Richmond, Charleston and Savannah. The streets of the South, teeming with black slaves, were very different to anything so far encountered by him, and the picturesque nature of the scenes, combined with his horror at the trading of human flesh, inspired Crowe to sketch prodigiously and, later, to turn many of the subjects into finished oil paintings (the most important were After the Sale: Slaves Going South, Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia, and A Barber’s Shop at Richmond, Virginia). He produced paintings and sketches based on his journey immediately on his return, and also made use of his experiences to help illustrate the growing crisis of the U.S. Civil War in 1861.

Although Eyre Crowe had first exhibited a work at the Royal Academy summer exhibition in 1846, and had also exhibited in 1848, 1849, 1854 and 1857, it was not until 1858 that his paintings were first noted in the reviews of contemporary periodicals and newspapers.

Paintings exhibited in the next two years followed Crowe’s usual themes, depicting events of 16th-18th century history and literature. They were not always reviewed kindly, but were at least noticed. In June 1864 the Art Journal published a retrospective on Eyre Crowe (‘British Artists: their Style and Character – No. LXXIII – Eyre Crowe’), written when Crowe was coming into prominence as part of a group of young artists, and it is notable that the reviews of his pictures given in this article are of a rather more laudatory character than those which were published at the time.

(c) Kathryn Summerwill 2009

Find out more

Browse all pictures produced in the 1850s

Browse all pictures relating to Eyre Crowe’s American trip

Essay about Eyre Crowe’s art: The 1860s

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