At the Pit-Door (1873)

'At the Pit-Door' by Eyre Crowe (1873)

‘At the Pit-Door’ by Eyre Crowe (1873)

Medium: oil

Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1873

According to Christopher Wood in Victorian Panorama: Paintings of Victorian Life (1976), in which this painting is reproduced, the crowd was queuing to see Miss Bateman in Leah. This would have been a fitting subject for Eyre Crowe to paint, as Kate Bateman married his brother George in 1866, and he followed her theatrical career with great interest. At the time of writing of Wood’s book, the painting was in the ownership of the Harwood Gallery in Leeds. It had been auctioned at Christies on 2 July 1971; and Sotheby’s on 9 March 1974.

The St James’s Magazine, April 1873:


I must not omit to tell you of another very clever and animated picture of Mr. Eyre Crowe, “At the Pit Door” (626). People are struggling and pushing their way into the pit of the opera, and the lady-part of the crowd stand a great chance of being torn to pieces.

Athenaeum, 10 May 1873:

Mr. Crowe’s remaining production, At the Pit Door (626) is his largest. It represents the crush at an entrance of a minor theatre on a night when a new piece is to be performed; in front is a strong barrier with a man on duty to defend it; the space within is strewn with caps, muffs, hats and bonnets, thrown there by playful individuals in the impatient crowd. A youth and his sweetheart have paid their money and triumphantly pass the barrier; others are struggling to get through. These figures present rich opportunities for a humourist: notice the indignant old lady, the riotous lads, the girls who are closely squeezed, the angry and the jocular folks. Each part has been heedfully drawn and painted – figure, face, costume, even the hands and accessories; and the work has that fidelity which is in itself a charm. Its solidity is all the more commendable because by no means common on these walls. Mr. Crowe has hardly succeeded in rendering the effect of gas-light.

Illustrated London News, 17 May 1873:

Far inferior [to Brothers of the Brush] is the rush at ‘The Pit Door’ (626) of a theatre, which is vulgarly farcical; the lighting also is unsatisfactory.

The Times, 26 June 1873:

Mr. Eyre Crowe, who usually sends us some embodiment of literary anecdote, has this year confined himself to bits of contemporary life of the more prosaic kind. If even such subjects as … the rush of a country audience into the pit on the appearance of a favourite star (625), can be made interesting by sincerity and conscientiousness of treatment, what fruit might not be expected from a deeper and tenderer or even more daring grasp of contemporary life?

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