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. 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. 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 pictures, as compared with other contemporary artworks relating to slavery in the American South.
See also 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.
Crowe himself wrote about his experiences in the autobiographical With Thackeray in America, published in 1893. The book contains many of his original sketches made during the trip. It has been digitised and is freely available on the Internet Archive website.
Browse the hyperlinked titles below to see more information about these pictures, and images and published reviews where these are available.
- After the Sale: Slaves going South (1853). Medium: oil.
- American Scene (1855). Medium: oil.
- Slave Auction at Richmond, Virginia (1856). Medium: pen and ink.
- Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia (1861). Medium: oil.
- A Barber’s Shop at Richmond, Virginia (1861). Medium: oil.
- Church in Charleston, South Carolina (c.1861). Medium: ink drawing.
- The Secession Movement – Entrance Hall to an hotel at Charleston, South Carolina (c.1861). Medium: ink drawing.
- Selling Sweet Potatoes in Charleston (c.1861). Medium: ink drawing.
- The Slave Auction (1862). Medium: oil. This painting, formerly incorrectly ascribed to Eyre Crowe, is actually by Lefevre Cranstone
- Richmond, Virginia (c.1862). Medium: ink drawing.