Birthplace: Norwich, Norfolk, England
Location of death: Norwich, Norfolk, England
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: Painter of trees, Norwich School
English landscape painter, founder and chief representative of the "Norwich School", often called Old Crome, to distinguish him from his son, was born at Norwich, on the 21st of December 1769. His father was a weaver, and could give him only the scantiest education. His early years were spent in work of the humblest kind; and at a fit age he became apprentice to a housepainter. To this step he appears to have been led by an inborn love of art and the desire to acquaint himself by any means with its materials and processes. During his apprenticeship he sometimes painted signboards, and devoted what leisure time he had to sketching from nature. Through the influence of a rich art-loving friend he was enabled to exchange his occupation of housepainter for that of drawing master; and in this he was engaged throughout his life. He took great delight in a collection of Dutch pictures to which he had access, and these he carefully studied. About 1790 he was introduced to Sir William Beechey, whose house in London he frequently visited, and from whom he gathered additional knowledge and help in his art. In 1805 the Norwich Society of Artists took definite shape, its origin being traceable a year or two further back. Crome was its president and the largest contributor to its annual exhibitions. Among his pupils were James Stark, Vincent, Thirtle and John Bernay (Barney) Crome, his son. J. S. Cotman, too, a greater artist than any of these, was associated with him. Crome continued to reside at Norwich, and with the exception of his short visits to London had little or no communication with the great artists of his own time. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1806; but in this and the following twelve years he exhibited there only fourteen of his works. With very few exceptions Crome's subjects are taken from the familiar scenery of his native county. Fidelity to nature was his dominant aim. "The bit of heath, the boat, and the slow water of the flattish land, trees most of all -- the single tree in elaborate study, the group of trees, and how the growth of one affects that of another, and the characteristics of each", these, says Frederick Wedmore in Studies in English Art, are the things to which he is most constant. He still remains, says the same critic, of many trees the greatest draughtsman, and is especially the master of the oak. His most important works are "Mousehold Heath, near Norwich", now in the National Gallery; "Clump of Trees, Hautbois Common"; "Oak at Poringland"; the "Willow"; "Coast Scene near Yarmouth"; "Bruges, on the Ostend River"; "Slate Quarries"; the "Italian Boulevards"; and the "Fishmarket at Boulogne." He executed a good many etchings, and the great charm of these is in the beautiful and faithful representation of trees. Crome enjoyed a very limited reputation during his life, and his pictures were sold at low prices; but since his death they have been more and more appreciated, and have given him a high place among English painters of landscape. He died at Norwich on the 22nd of April 1821. His son, J. B. Crome, was his assistant in teaching, and his best pictures were in the same style, his moonlight effects being much admired. A collection of "Old" Crome's etchings, entitled Norfolk Picturesque Scenery, was published in 1834, and was re-issued with a memoir by Dawson Turner in 1838, but in this issue the prints were retouched by other hands.
Son: John Bernay Crome (painter, b. 1794, d. 1842)
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