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Norwich School of Painters

The Norwich School of Painters

The Norwich School of Painters

A group of landscape painters established in Norwich, East Anglia, during the early part of the 19th Century.

The Norwich Society was founded at a meeting of the friends, pupils and patrons of John Crome, the landscape painter. Its purpose was 'An Enquiry into the Rise, Progress and present state of Painting, Architecture and Sculpture, with a view to point out the Best Methods of study to attain to Greater Perfection in these Arts.'

This group was strong but diverse. It was described as a school only because its leaders, John Crome and John Sell Cotman, operated in Norwich as teachers and drawing masters. Neither their own work, nor that of their pupils, displays a common style, though the artists established close personal and family links. While they concentrated for long periods on Norfolk scenery and life, they also visited and painted Wales and the Lake District, the Netherlands and northern France. They formed strong connections with colleagues at a national level, exhibited and sometimes lived in London, and were often at the forefront of contemporary artistic theory and taste. Even when regionally based, they were never provincial in outlook.

The Society held fortnightly meetings and discussions, and organized an Exhibition of 223 oil and watercolor paintings by 18 members in 1805. The show was a success, and the Exhibitions became an annual event, the first of their type outside London. John Crome was President of the Society, and in 1807, John Sell Cotman joined the group, and became Vice-President. The Norwich School was dominated by these two, and the members can to some extent be divided into those who followed Crome's realist manner, and those working in the more free style of Cotman, who was not above painting pictures of places he had not personally visited, working from other artists' sketches. The Norwich Society flourished through to the 1830s, when the Exhibitions faltered and ceased in 1833. They were revived in 1839, but never achieved the same success as previously. Crome had died in 1821, and Cotman died in 1842. Artists of the Norwich School continued working through to the 1880s.

The subjects of the Norwich School painters were typically landscapes, coasts and marine scenes from around Norwich and Norfolk. Rustic scenes were also popular. Often they combined old-master style colors with a closely observed realist observation of nature. The colors of the Norwich School pictures as they appear today are often more reddish-brown than originally, as apparently various of their colors, notably the indigo blue, faded or became red over time.


Works by most of the Norwich School may be seen in the Norwich Castle Museum. Crome and Cotman were big names and their work is distributed more widely. Three examples of the work of James Stark are in the Lady Lever Gallery, as well as works by Cotman and Crome, including his important English woodland scene Marlingford Grove (c.1815).

Artists of the Norwich School included:

John Crome (1768-1821) John Sell Cotman (1782-1842) Henry Bright (1810-1873) Joseph Clover (1779-1853) Samuel David Colkett (1800-1863) John Joseph Cotman (1814-1878) Miles Edmund Cotman (1810-1858) John Berney Crome (1794-1842) William Henry Crome (1806-c.1858) Revd. E. T. Daniell (1804-1843) David Hodgson (1798-1864) Robert Ladbrooke (1770-1842) John Berney Ladbrooke (1803-1879) Thomas Lound (1802-1861) John Middleton (1827-1856) Henry Ninham (1754-1817) Alfred Priest (1810-1850) James Sillett (1764-1840) Alfred Stannard (1806-1889) Alfred George Stannard (1828-1885) Joseph Stannard (1797-1830) James Stark (1794-1859) John Thirtle (1777-1859) .