Norwich School of Artists

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1 Norwich School of Artists John Sell Cotman Greta Bridge, Yorkshire Watercolour 30 x 50.1 cm The Norwich School In the early nineteenth century, Norwich was the home of artists who, by their common aims and close master-pupil and family ties, formed the only regional school of painting in England. Its two great masters were John Crome and John Sell Cotman and in 1803 this loose knit circle united to found the Norwich Society of Artists, the first of many artists' groups that sprang up countrywide in the nineteenth century. From 1805 until 1833 the Society held annual exhibitions in Norwich, except during when their gallery in Sir Benjamin Wrenche's Court was demolished and a new gallery built. In 1816 three of its leading members, Robert Ladbrooke, James Sillett and John Thirtle, broke away and formed a new but shortlived group which exhibited at Theatre Plain, Norwich, until Strangely, some of the main artists of the Norwich School, especially the Stannard brothers, did not become formal members of the Society, although its status was raised by the membership of eminent London artists such as John Burnet and Sir Martin Archer Shee. Like that of Turner and Constable, whose genius and vast output overshadow English art at this time, the significance of Norwich School painting lies in a realism based on direct observation. It is a departure from the 'rococo' prettiness of Gainsborough and the arcadian classical landscape derived from Claude and Poussin.

2 John Crome New Mills, Men Wading Oil on panel 29.8 x 35.7 cm John Crome Son of a journeyman weaver, Crome was apprenticed to a sign painter in 1783 and later met Thomas Harvey of Catton, a master weaver, a patron of the arts and a discerning collector. Crome copied from Harvey's collection of earlier Dutch and English masters. In 1792 Crome married and became a drawing master to the Gurneys of Earlham, near Norwich, whom he accompanied to the Lake District in In 1803 he founded the Norwich Society of Artists of which he was President in 1808 and 1821, the year of his death. Along with many British artists he went to Paris in 1814, just before Waterloo, to see the pictures looted by Napoleon. His many pupils included Dawson Turner's family of Great Yarmouth and Richard Noverre Bacon who remembered him as 'my mirthloving kind and earnest teacher'. 1 Crome died on 22nd April 1821 and his funeral was attended by 'an immense concourse of people'. 2 Carrow Abbey, exhibited with the Norwich Society in 1805, may have prompted the criticism 'it is the scribbling of painting - so much of the trowel - so mortary, surely a little more finishing might be borne'. 3 Crome's paintings were unmistakably modern, despite their roots in the seventeenth century Dutch masters - Hobbema in the Grove Scene, Van Goyen in the Yare at Thorpe - and in the eighteenth century English paintings of Wilson and early Gainsborough. In New Mills, Men Wading of circa1812 he achieved a freshness of vision and colour that is comparable to Constable's revolutionary painting of the next twenty years. His rare watercolours have the firm design and draughtmanship that underlie his oils and in them he comes remarkably close to

3 Cotman. His etchings, published posthumously in 1834, have a sensitivity for natural forms that surpasses their forerunners - the eighteenth century work of the Runciman brothers, Gainsborough and Cozens. James Stark Cromer Oil on panel 60.9 x 85.7 cm Crome's Pupils Four of Crome's children became painters but only John Berney Crome inherited some of his father's mastery, perhaps expressed most fully in his large Yarmouth Water Frolic at the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, London. As well as landscape he painted moonlight scenes in the style of Van der Neer. He held office with the Norwich Society but although in 1824 he was appointed landscape painter to the Duke of Sussex, a patron of the Society from , his fortunes declined and he became bankrupt in The most talented of all Crome's followers were Stark and Vincent. James Stark , the son of a chemist and textile dyer, became apprenticed to John Crome in In 1813 he joined the Norwich Society and in 1817 entered the Royal Academy Schools. He returned to Norwich in 1821 and later held office with the Norwich Society, but after 1830 he again lived in London. Stark's early paintings are modelled on Crome, but their leafy dense foliage and yellowish palette prompted the master to write ' breadth must be attended to, if you paint but a muscle give it breadth'. 4 After 1830 Stark's touch became lighter and works such as Cromer and Whitlingham from Old Thorpe Grove have the sparkling light and freshness of his watercolours. Stark exhibited regularly and widely and his subjects indicate extensive travel throughout Britain. His patrons included the sculptor Francis Chantrey, the portraitist Thomas Phillips and the collectors Josiah French and Sir George Beaumont. Among his artist

4 friends were William Collins, the Cookes and William Roberts. Within his circle he became one of the most successful of the Norwich School. Stark's son Arthur James Stark also painted, and his pupil, Samuel David Colkett c , followed his early style, fashioned on Crome. Of all Crome's pupils, the most accomplished was George Vincent Son of a shawl manufacturer, he became apprenticed to Crome around After a short stay in London he returned to Norwich in 1815, becoming a member of the Norwich Society until With J.B. Crome and Benjamin Steel, a son-in-law of Crome, he visited Paris in 'They had a charming voyage over, Vincent belching as loud as the steampacket '. 4 By 1818 he was again living in London, next door to James Stark and Joseph Clover, and he was already in debt. The following year he toured Scotland, but despite the success in London of his exhibited pictures and his marriage in 1822, Vincent's affairs worsened. From December 1824 until February 1827 he was imprisoned for debt in The Fleet - 'I can paint small pictures here but not any of size' 5 - and soon afterwards, in 1832, he died at Bath. Although his career was short, dated works of show a quality that outpaces his Norwich School contemporaries and matches many others including Callcott and Stanfield. His talent did not escape the notice of the distinguished collectors James Wadmore and Lord de Tabley, Turner's patron, who both bought Vincent's pictures, exhibited in London in The almost impressionist figure painting of the Dutch Fair at Yarmouth Beach, exhibited at the British Institution in 1821 and now in the Elizabethan House Museum, Great Yarmouth, clearly shows his debt to Crome. Vincent's paintings range from cabinet size to 'six footers' and are often signed with a conjoined monogram. Joseph Stannard A Cottage with Figures, c.1828 Etching 13.5 x 21.4 cms

5 Crome's Contemporaries and their Sons Crome's early career was linked closely with Robert Ladbrooke and Charles Hodgson. Robert Ladbrooke was a printer's apprentice, but after his marriage to Crome's sister-in-law in 1793 he became a drawing master. He probably went with Crome to the Wye Valley and Wales in He later held office with the Norwich Society but seceded to form the breakaway group in Although Ladbrooke exhibited over two hundred paintings with the Society, today only a handful can be attributed to him. He painted mainly landscapes, although he sometimes showed a portrait, genre or still life painting. Ladbrooke's pupils included Thirtle and Joseph Stannard and three of his sons became painters. The best known is John Berney Ladbrooke who carried the Norwich School landscape into the Victorian era with his precise brushstrokes, heightened colour and pretty cottage compositions. He designed his own house 'Kett's Castle Villa', which still stands on Gas Hill, Norwich. Charles Hodgson was a bank clerk before opening a 'Young Gentlemen's Academy' in Hungate Street, Norwich. He exhibited with the Norwich Society from 1805, held office, and in 1824 was appointed architectural draughtsman to the Duke of Sussex. Almost none of his work, of mostly architectural subjects, survives, but his first exhibits included four landscapes in bodycolour and one such, dated 1797, is in the Norwich Castle collection. Much better known is his son David Hodgson who was also a Secretary, a Vice-President and a President of the Norwich Society. A prolific but rarely exceptional painter of the streets, markets and churches of Norwich, he is especially recognised for his versions of The Fishmarket, St. Peter Mancroft, one of which was lithographed by Louis Haghe. He also produced etchings of Norfolk and Norwich buildings and lithographs of Norfolk bridges, after drawings by Francis Stone, the architect, whose daughter he married in Other contemporaries of Crome are John Ninham, James Sillett and Robert Dixon. John Ninham was known for his theatrical effects such as 'Paris in an uproar or an Assault on the Bastille' set up in Quantrell's Gardens, Norwich, in June He passed on his business as an heraldic painter and printer to his son Henry Ninham , a drawing master, whose simple, small portraits in oil and in watercolour of Norwich courtyards, cottages and waterways are unmistakably influenced by John Crome. James Sillett c painted mainly still lifes, the occasional seapiece and a series of delicate grey wash studies of Norwich buildings. Robert Dixon began as a scene painter at Norwich Theatre and, apart from some rather mechanical rustic scenes in the manner of Prout, did many small watercolours of the Norfolk coast which are among the most forward-looking by the Norwich painters.

6 John Thirtle View on the River near Cow's Tower, Norwich, c.1810 Watercolour 40.5 x 54.8 cms The Stannard Family The leading member of this talented artist family was Joseph Stannard A pupil of Robert Ladbrooke, with whom he sided at the secession from the Norwich Society in In 1821 he visited Holland and in 1826 married Emily Coppin, daughter of a Norwich collector, Daniel Coppin. In spite of a desperately short life, he produced landscapes and, after 1822, mostly seascapes, which often surpass better known London contemporaries, such as William Collins. He had a firm understanding of seventeenth century Dutch paintings and his works were praised not only for their painterly skill but also for their technical mastery - 'every rope is right'. 6 His most ambitious work is Thorpe Water Frolic - Afternoon where, on the extreme right, the artist stands in his own boat, surveying the scene. Joseph's brother, Alfred Stannard , worked as a drawing master. His early easel-size oils, dated 1832 and 1833, have a crisp Flemish richness of handling lost in his later paintings which imitate his brother's work. Works of the 1870s, with little or no glazing, are dry, sketchy and flatter in colour. The Stannard family includes the only women painters of note in the Norwich School. Emily Stannard was awarded medals by the Society of Arts in 1820, 1821 and 1828 for her flower, fruit and game paintings in the manner of the Dutch School. Eloise Harriet Stannard , one of Alfred's thirteen or more children, at her best, matched any contemporary painter with her flowers, fruit and baskets of strawberries.

7 As well as being one of the School's finest painters and draughtsmen - his figure and boat drawing outstrips most of his fellow Norwich artists - Joseph Stannard was one of the best etchers of the School. He was the teacher of the Rev. Edward Thomas Daniell , one of the earliest and most innovative revivers of etching in nineteenth century England. Also a prolific and brilliant topographical watercolourist, Daniell travelled widely on the Continent in and in 1840 to the Near East, from which, like Wilkie, he never returned. He died of malaria in Adalia, 'a beloved friend who fell a victim to his zeal'. 7 Apart from having many Norwich friends, Daniell was host and patron to many of the most distinguished London artists of the day including Blake, Turner and Linnell. George Vincent Trowse Meadows, near Norwich, 1828 Oil on canvas 73 x cms John Sell Cotman The most perfect examples of pure watercolour ever made in Europe. Laurence Binyon Eldest son of a haberdasher, Cotman left Norwich around 1798 and 'went to Ackermann's but left him - not being treated as fancied he ought'. 9 (Ackermann's was a firm of publishers which employed artists to colour engravings.) The summer of 1799 Cotman spent with Dr. Thomas Monro, the early employer of Turner and Girtin, and later worked for him in London. Cotman may have met Girtin later in Conway, Wales, then a Mecca for English artists. In 1801 he was elected a member of Girtin's Sketching Society, founded in 1799 as a 'School of Historic Landscape'. They drew subjects from

8 romantic poets like Southey and epic themes from the Bible, Dante and Shakespeare. After Girtin died in 1802, the Society became known as 'Cotman's Drawing Society'. Cotman went to Wales in 1800 and again in 1802, this time with fellow artist Paul Sandby Munn. The following year he visited Yorkshire, staying with the Cholmeley family. After further visits to Yorkshire in 1804 and 1805, Cotman returned to Norwich where he first exhibited with the Norwich Society in He became Vice-President in 1810 and President in In 1809 he married and set up a circulating library of drawings for pupils to copy; in 1812 he moved to Great Yarmouth, staying for twelve years as drawing master and draughtsman to the family of Dawson Turner the banker, book collector and antiquarian. The summers of 1817, 1818 and 1820 Cotman spent in Normandy sketching Romanesque architecture for Dawson Turner. In 1823 he moved back to Norwich and in 1834, with the help of Dawson Turner and William Wilkins, the Norwich-born architect, Cotman was appointed Professor of Drawing at King's College School, London. Except for a sketching holiday in Norfolk with his friend, the Rev. James Bulwer, during the autumn of 1841, Cotman remained in London where he died on 24 July 1842 and was buried in the cemetery of St. John's Wood chapel. Unlike Crome, Cotman's development can be traced. The soft tones and the dot-dash brush strokes of his early drawings, so reminiscent of Girtin, give way to a less monochromatic colour with the pinks, the greens and siennas of the first Yorkshire drawings. Fluid washes, rather than brush strokes, and abstract shapes reach perfection in the Greta drawings of circa 1805, which are considered by some to be the greatest achievement of European watercolour painting. Their qualities reappear in the subtle grey and brown Normandy drawings of the early 1820s. After 1808 Cotman's colour becomes richer, less transparent and his design more solid, as in Greta Bridge, Yorkshire (1810). In The Marl Pit colours rather than tones are juxtaposed. Other drawings and the early oil The Waterfall are more obviously influenced by the seventeenth century classical landscapes of Claude, Poussin and Bourdon. In the 1820s and 1830s Cotman's interest in the colour of light and in technical experiments deepened. He used accents of white in the windmill in Acle Flats and Marshes, a stuckon lampshade in The Drawing Master and thick bodycolour in The Hay Boat. His interiors also suggest a knowledge of Turner's Petworth sketches. Cotman painted few oils, but the tree studies of the late 1820s, Normandy River and Silver Birches, are two of the most poetic essays in English landscape painting. Most of Cotman's architectural etchings are far from pedestrian, despite their arduous labour, and his Liber Studiorum is among the finest series of soft ground etchings ever produced. Cotman's misfortune was to 'skulk through life as a drawing master and pattern drawer to young ladies' 10 but his range, versatility and output have still to be fully appreciated. Miles Edmund Cotman followed, often too slavishly, his father's work but contact with a London artist, W.J. Muller, probably helped him towards a greater spontaneity in some of his watercolours. A far more original artist was John Sell's second son, John Joseph Cotman , whose later watercolours are spiritually close to early Samuel Palmer in their richly intense colour.

9 After Crome and Cotman, John Thirtle is the most important watercolourist of the earlier generation Norwich School. A carver, gilder, printseller and drawing master of Magdalen Street and one of the seceders from the Norwich Society in 1816, his subjects were the rivers and cityscape of Norwich, its warehouses, bridges and waterborne traffic. What de Wint was to Lincoln, Thirtle was to Norwich. His earliest drawings are closer to Girtin than most contemporary watercolourists, but his work of circa is his outstanding achievement. Thirtle's panoramas of Norwich, unparalleled in the Norwich School, by themselves give him a place among the best of early English watercolourists. John Middleton Landscape with Pollards Oil on canvas 51.4 x 61.6 cm The Younger Artists The most talented were Leman, Lound, Priest, Bright and, above all, Middleton. Robert Leman , a fire insurance agent, and his sketching friend the amiable Thomas Lound , Manager of Thompson's Brewery in King Street, were both members of the Norwich Amateur Club. Leman's style shows the influence of Bright while Lound undoubtedly admired Thirtle's work, of which he owned over 100 examples. Lound collaborated with Bright and, apart from local scenes, sketched a series of large watercolours of English castles during his countrywide travels. He also made a number of small, spirited etchings for circulation among his friends. Alfred Priest was a pupil of Stark and studied etching under Henry Ninham. Mainly an oil painter, he specialised in sea pieces with dramatic lighting effects. His landscapes are often large, and broadly painted, but slick in manner.

10 Henry Bright was born in Suffolk but was apprenticed in Norwich to Alfred Stannard. From 1836 he lived in London for twenty years, travelling widely in Britain and abroad, but maintaining his Norwich contact. In 1847 he probably went with John Middleton to Kent, and watercolours of this date by both artists are almost indistinguishable in their rich fluid handling and brilliant fresh green colour. Bright's oils and drawings of this period show him at his peak but Middleton's development was cut short by his early death. Yet he left a group of watercolours and an almost abstract oil Landscape with Pollards which provide a brilliant finale to the achievement of the Norwich School. All paintings and watercolours referred to in the text are in the collection of Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery unless otherwise stated. References For Dickes, Hardie and Kitson see Norwich School of Artists: Booklist 1 Foreword dated Sept to John Wodderspoon, John Crome, Richard Mackenzie Bacon, Norwich Mercury, 28 April James Boaden, quoted Farington's Diary, 5 May John Crome to James Stark, Norwich, Jan. 1817, BM Add. MSS 43830,73. 5 George Vincent to William Davey, 27 Dec. 1824, Dickes, p Norfolk Chronicle, 6 Oct Lieut. A.B. Spratt and Prof. Edward Forbes, Travels in Lycia, 1835, vol. 1, p Lawrence Binyon, Landscape in English Art and Poetry, 1931, p.132, quoted Hardie, p M.E. Cotman to Dawson Turner, 25 Aug. 1842, Private Collection. 10 Hardie, p.73 Original text by Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service 1979, revised 1983, revised 2003.

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