Old Mortality (1871)

Medium: oil

Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1871

Crowe recorded in his diary on 22 September 1902 that this picture was purchased from Agnew’s at Waterloo Place by William Waring of London, who told him that he chose it because of the texture of the gravestone. It was sold at Christie’s on 22 September along with the rest of the late Mr Waring’s collection.

Athenaeum, 6 May 1871:

Old Mortality (39) shows the champion of decaying monuments kneeling before a stone which bears the, until now, time-defaced names of heroes; he is working industriously; his bag of tools is at his feet, his old white horse stands near, and grazes on the rank herbage of the cemetery. The grass is so thick, that ‘Old Mortality’ does not hear the approaching steps of Sir Walter Scott and his guide as they come near and watch him at work. The figures are too small. This is the sole fault of this capital picture. There is a good deal of quiet satire as well as pathos in the design … There is capital colour in this work … and great freedom of handling; more, indeed, than Mr. Crowe has previously shown. The chiaroscuro is so good that the picture would engrave well.

Art Journal, June 1871:

We are glad … to find MR. CROWE in ‘Old Mortality’ (39) reviving the expectation raised by earlier works. The old man earnestly cuts away at a gravestone in a churchyard, while Sir Walter Scott looks on at the subject of his well-known story. The figure of the aged man is graphically delineated, and though the central colour be blue, the pictorial effect is good … The painting throughout is solid and sound, and the artist for once gains character without falling into the grotesque.

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