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John Crome

John Crome

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John Crome (Norwich 22 December 1768 – 22 April 1821) was an English landscape artist of the Romantic era, one of the principal artists of the Norwich School art movement. He lived in Norwich for all his life, and most of his works are Norfolk landscapes.

He was sometimes known as Old Crome to distinguish him from his son, John Berney Crome, who was also a well-known artist. His work is in the collections of major galleries including the Tate Gallery and the Royal Academy. He is particularly well represented at Norwich Castle Museum. He produced etchings and taught art.

Crome was born in Norwich in Norfolk, the son of a weaver. After a period working as an errand boy for a doctor (from the age of 12), he was apprenticed to Francis Whisler, a house, coach and sign painter. At about this time he formed a friendship with Robert Ladbrooke, an apprentice printer, who also became a celebrated landscape painter. The pair shared a room and went on sketching trips in the fields and lanes around Norwich. They occasionally bought prints to copy.

Crome and Ladbrooke sold some of their work to a local print-seller, "Smith and Jaggars" of Norwich, and was probably through the print-seller that Crome met Thomas Harvey of Old Catton, who helped him set up as a drawing teacher. He had access to Harvey's art collection which allowed him to develop his skills by copying the works of Gainsborough and Hobbema. Crome received further instruction and encouragement from Sir William Beechey R.A., whose house in London he frequently visited, and John Opie R.A.

In October 1792 Crome married Phoebe Berney – they had two daughters and six sons. His eldest son, John Berney Crome (1794–1842) was a notable landscape painter, as was his third son William Henry Crome (1806–67).

He was a member of the Norwich Society of Artists and contributed 22 works to its first exhibition, held in 1805. He served as president of the society several times, and held the position at the time of his death; however with the exception of his short visits to London he had little or no communication with the great artists of his own time. He exhibited 13 works at the Royal Academy between 1806 and 1818. He visited Paris in 1814, following the defeat of Napoleon, and later exhibited views of Paris, Boulogne, and Ostend. Most of his subjects were, however, scenes in Norfolk.

Crome was drawing master at the grammar school in the city, the Norwich School, for many years. Several members of the Norwich School art movement were educated at the institution and taught by Crome there, including James Stark and Edward Thomas Daniell. He also taught privately, early pupils including members of the influential Gurney family, with whom he visited the Lake District in 1802.

He died at his house in Gildengate Street, Norwich, 22 April 1821, and was buried in St. George's Church. On his death-bed he is said to have gasped, 'Oh Hobbema, my dear Hobbema, how I have loved you'. A memorial exhibition of more than 100 of his works was held in November that year by the Norwich Society of Artists.

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