Thomas Creswick

Born 1811
Died 1869
Place of Birth Sheffield
Place of Death London
Gender Male
Biographical Notes From The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

Landscape painter, was born at Sheffield, Yorkshire, on 5 February 1811, one of the large family of Thomas Creswick and his wife, Ann Fox; he was baptized on 15 March at the church of St Peter and St Paul, Sheffield. He received his education at Hazelwood, near Birmingham, and rapidly developed a talent for drawing, studying for some years in Birmingham under John Vincent Barber. In 1828 he moved to London, settling in Edmund Street, St Pancras. In that year, two of his works were exhibited at the Royal Academy, where he was to show 139 works during a long career; he also exhibited eighty paintings at the British Institution and forty-six at the Society of British Artists. His unchallenging but competently executed landscapes found ready patrons at these exhibitions. Early in his career he also produced drawings for engraving: his illustrations to Thomas Roscoe's North Wales (1836) are conventional in composition, while those for Leitch Ritchie's Ireland Picturesque and Romantic (1837–8) are more originally conceived. His etchings, such as those for Songs and Ballads of Shakespeare, Illustrated by Members of the Etching Club (1843), demonstrate a secure grip of the technique and conventions of etching but little imaginative flair. He contributed to Edward Moxon's illustrated edition of Tennyson's poetry (1857) alongside works by the Pre-Raphaelites. After various moves in St Pancras and Pentonville, Creswick settled permanently at 7 Linden Grove, Bayswater, in 1836. With the Royal Academy exhibits of 1841, the Art Journal noted that ‘he seemed to have struck into a new path, one uniting vigour and boldness of handling with delicacy, and greater variety of harmony of tints with the freshness and verdure of Nature’ (Art Journal, 1856, 142). One of the most vigorous in this new manner is Land's End, Cornwall (1842; exh. British Institution, 1843; Victoria and Albert Museum, London). In 1842 the director of the British Institution awarded him a premium of 50 guineas for the general merit of his works. Many of Creswick's finest works were painted in the north of England during the 1840s. A series of paintings of Haddon Hall, Derbyshire (such as On the Terrace, 1840, Yale U. CBA), deploy figures in period costume in a carefully observed setting. He was elected an ARA in 1842 and Royal Academician in 1851. His later works lacked the precision and vibrancy of their predecessors, leading the Art Journal in 1856 to criticize the ‘low and dingy scale of colouring’ which he had recently adopted. Creswick often collaborated with other artists such as William Powell Frith and Richard Ansdell, who added figures and animals to his landscape compositions; Trentside (exh. RA, 1861; Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London, Egham), includes cattle by John William Bottomley. Little is known of Creswick's methods: Richard and Samuel Redgrave suggest that ‘he was accustomed to paint only what may be called the eye of his pictures out of doors and on the spot’, though ‘to secure exactly what he wanted he would brave cold and wet and all other trials’ (Redgrave and Redgrave, 335). Creswick was a committed member of the academy and seems to have revelled in its cliquish institutional politics. Allies such as Frith recalled him as an ‘intimate friend—and good nature personified’ (Frith, 1.125), whereas Thomas Sidney Cooper, though admitting ‘he could paint’ (Cooper, 2.93), described him as ‘self-willed and insincere. He did all he could to keep me from getting full honours of the Royal Academy [and was] ignorant, vindictive and unsociable’ (ibid., 95). Scruffy and unkempt, with a ragged beard, Creswick was known as ‘big unwashed’ among his detractors. There seems to be some truth in the idea that he schemed to keep other landscape painters out of the Royal Academy. Creswick died at Linden Grove, Bayswater, London, on 28 December 1869, leaving a widow, Anne. He was buried in Kensal Green cemetery in London. While Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine in 1861 admired his works as ‘essentially English in subject and in sentiment’ (J. Chapel, Victorian Taste, 1982, 78), even his champions, Richard and Samuel Redgrave, admitted that ‘his touch is inclined to mannerism and there is a good deal of sameness in his work’, a fact which became apparent at the memorial exhibition of his work held at South Kensington in 1873. In describing his work as ‘anodyne in treatment’ and characterizing A Summer's Afternoon (1844; Victoria and Albert Museum, London) as ‘a banal pastoral’, Michael Rosenthal articulates the consensus of modern opinion on Creswick (British Landscape Painting, 1982).

Source: Tim Barringer, ‘Creswick, Thomas (1811–1869)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6679, accessed 3 May 2013]

Works



Images

Bantry Bay (Draughtsman)

Lough Erne (Draughtsman)

Donegal Castle (Draughtsman)

Ballyshannon (Draughtsman)

Glengarriff (Draughtsman)