A Passion for Landscape: Rediscovering John Crome

An exhibition celebrating the work of one of Britain’s great Romantic artists

John Crome (1768-1821)

on the bicentenary of his death in 1821


Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery

17 May – 5 September 2021

The exhibition A Passion for Landscape: Rediscovering John Crome celebrates the work of one of Britain’s great Romantic artists. It opens at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery on 17 May running until 5 September 2021. 

John Crome
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Exhibition curator Dr Giorgia Bottinelli, Curator of Historic Art, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery said: “This is the first major exhibition dedicated to John Crome since 1968. It provides a long-overdue opportunity to rediscover this largely neglected but nonetheless great artist and conclusively reinstates Crome’s national reputation by re-evaluating his important role in the history of British landscape painting”.  

Cllr. John Ward, Chairman of the Norfolk Joint Museums Committee, said: “It is wonderful that we are able to reopen Norwich Castle with an exhibition celebrating one of the City’s greatest cultural figures. John Crome’s celebration of the landscape of his native Norfolk is both timeless and timely, with so many of us reconnecting with nature over the past difficult year. We are delighted to bring the work of this wonderful artist to wider attention.”

John Crome (1768-1821) grew up in Norwich. The son of a journeyman weaver, he received no formal artistic training, learning to paint and mix colours through an apprenticeship as a coach and sign painter. As an artist and teacher, he was held in great esteem, and his reputation soon stretched beyond the confines of East Anglia. He exhibited at London’s Royal Academy and the British Institution and founded the first art society in Britain outside the capital, the Norwich School of Artists, which later became internationally known as the Norwich School of Painting. 

While Crome looked to Old Masters for inspiration, notably 17th century Dutch landscape painters such as Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709) and also the Welsh landscape artist Richard Wilson RA (1714–1782), his interpretation was modern, original and distinctly his own. A careful observer of the natural world, Crome rooted his work in his local surroundings. He provided a snapshot of the Norfolk landscape, often focusing, with rapid brushstrokes, on the quiet corners, capturing small streams, creaking gates and ancient, gnarled trees. From the earliest days, Crome kept his compositions simple; landscapes were rarely over populated thus giving an overriding impression of light and air. Not surprisingly as a city dweller, views of Norwich itself also feature in his oeuvre, as did the Norfolk coast. Aside from regular business trips to London, Crome was not a great traveller, only making a couple of trips to the Lake District, as well as to France in 1814, both recorded in a number of watercolours and finished oil paintings.

Crome’s career was relatively short spanning less than 20 years. He was not a prolific artist, earning his living primarily as a drawing master, teaching at Norwich Grammar School, and tutoring a considerable number of well-to-do pupils both in and around Norwich and Great Yarmouth. Many pupils or their parents were members of the solid middle class – the likes of merchants and bankers – who in turn became his patrons.

Although some contemporary critics felt his style too modern, others appreciated its freshness, boldness and sensitive perception. As his work became more sought after, not only was his genre imitated and emulated by his pupils and followers, but fraudulent copies also began to appear. Consequently, in recent years, Crome’s reputation has somewhat suffered even though at the height of his popularity in the early 20th century, the Keeper of the National Gallery Charles Collins Baker described him, John Constable and JMW Turner in the same breath as the ‘three greatest masters’ of English landscape painting.

Today John Crome remains an enigma. He never signed his oil paintings, there are no surviving sketchbooks and very few of his letters still exist. There has been little research and no new monographs published for some 50 years. Prior to the exhibition in 1968, held at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth, the last exhibition of any note was at Norwich Gallery in 1921.

This new exhibition, features approximately 90 works including paintings, watercolours and etchings, all of which demonstrate Crome’s proficiency and skill in varied media. Alongside Norwich Castle’s own pre-eminent collection of works by John Crome, the exhibition will present loans from private and public collections, including from Tate, the V&A, Fitzwilliam Museum and Manchester City Galleries. These are presented in six distinctive categories: Early Days, Pupils and Patrons, City Life, Quiet Corners, Coast and Light and Air, and seek to show all aspects of his work and inspiration. 

One particularly innovative aspect of the exhibition is the findings of technical analysis undertaken on many of the works on show. Many of the paintings in the exhibition have been investigated using infrared photography and analytical techniques including X-rays. These technologies have revealed that Crome sometimes used recycled pieces of wood as his support and often painted a completely new composition over an earlier one. It is also clear that Crome often preferred to adhere to traditional pigments when new ones were coming on to the market. Most notably, advanced close-up photography clearly reveals Crome’s delightful, distinctive brushwork. As Cathy Proudlove, former Head of Conservation at Norfolk Museums Service explains: “These new technological findings enhance our understanding of Crome’s working practices and unique qualities as an artist, while simultaneously expanding our ability to solve the many issues of authenticity and attribution associated with his work”.

The headline sponsor is The Friends of the Norwich Museums who are celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2021, making them the oldest independent museum friends association in the UK.

Charles Bingham-Newland, Chairman of the Friends of the Norwich Museums, said: “The Friends of the Norwich Museums are particularly pleased in their centenary year to be the major sponsor in the Castle Museum’s forthcoming exhibition focusing on the distinguished Norwich painter John Crome. Norwich can be rightly proud of its artistic heritage and the Friends of the Norwich Museums are delighted to be playing a keen supporting role in championing this.”

The exhibition is also supported by the East Anglia Art Fund and Arts Council England.


Associated Exhibitions:

Two complementary exhibitions will run alongside the main John Crome show:

Crome’s Norwich – 1821 & 2021

Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, 22 May – 18 September 2021

At the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, a sister exhibition to A Passion for Landscape takes a closer look at Crome’s Norwich, then and now. Local photographer Nick Stone has walked in the footsteps of John Crome, along river banks and city paths to revisit the locations which inspired him. The result is a collection of stunning images, which blend Crome’s works with contemporary photography, bringing the story of Crome’s Norwich up to date.

Somewhere Unexpected: Norwich Castle Open Art Show

17 May to 12 September 2021

As 2021 begins, we find ourselves in a new relationship with the landscape that surrounds us. An invitation was sent to artists from across East Anglia to submit work that acknowledges the significance of our immediate environments in the shifting context of a global pandemic. Somewhere Unexpected will present works selected from this open submission and welcomes a wide variety of approaches, including new media and performance. The exhibition will be shown in the Timothy Gurney Gallery at Norwich Castle as part of the bicentenary celebrations marking the birth of John Crome. The selectors for the show are Amanda Geitner, Rosy Gray, Henry Jackson Newcomb and Danny Keen. Somewhere Unexpected is the 6th Norwich Castle Open Art Show supported by the East Anglia Art Fund: www.eastanligaartfund.org.uk

A Passion for Landscape: Rediscovering John Crome

17 May   – 5 September 2021

Curated by Dr Giorgia Bottinelli, Curator of Historic Art Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery.

A fully illustrated 144-page publication will accompany the exhibition. 


Booking information:

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery and the Museum of Norwich will reopen to the public on 17 May if government guidelines allows.

Entry will be by advance booking only. Exhibitions included in museum admission. Tickets are on sale from 7 May 2021.  Tickets must be pre-booked online at least one day in advance. No tickets will be available on the door. 


Measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of visitors and staff. Visit our website for more information.


Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery 

Castle Hill, 


Tel. +44 (0)1603 495897 www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk

The exhibition is sponsored by The Friends of the Norwich Museums in their centenary anniversary year


 The Friends of the Norwich Museums: The Friends of the Norwich Museums was set up in 1921 to acquire artefacts for the Norwich Museums. Today the Friends are even more important, helping raise money, not just for acquisitions, but for conservation and displays and contributing vital funding for larger projects within the Museums. 


The exhibition is also sponsored by:

East Anglia Art Fund: The East Anglia Art Fund (EAAF) is dedicated to enriching cultural life in East Anglia by supporting the best in exhibitions and art education.



About Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is part of Norfolk Museums Service, a multi-award-winning service comprising ten museums and a study centre. NMS is now regarded as one of the leaders in the museum sector and in 2017 was successful in its bid for continuing major investment from Arts Council England. From April 2018, NMS has been a National Portfolio Organisation for Arts Council England, one of only 45 out of 845 heritage and arts organisations in England to be awarded the highest level of support. Norfolk Museums Service is a partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk’s district councils, funded through council tax, earned income and grants. www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk