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Famous artists of Norfolk

Written by Georgia Dawson on

Artist's paintbrushes

Norfolk is a county of art and culture. With almost 1000 artists based in Norfolk, from music to sculpture to paint, Norfolk offers a fantastic array of arts festivals, exhibitions, shows and events throughout the year. Below are a few of the key artists who made Norfolk the cultural hub it is today.

John Crome (22nd December 1768 – 22nd April 1821)

Born in Norwich in 1768, John Crome was an English landscape artist and etcher of the Romantic Era. Crome lived in Norwich until his death in 1821 and a lot of his work was focused around the beautiful Norfolk landscape. It is believed Francis Whistler, who was a house, coach and sign painter in Norwich, taught Crome about paints and how to mix them when he became an apprentice at the age of 14. At this point, he also made friends with Robert Ladbrooke who worked for a printing and engraving company. Crome and Ladbrooke loved painting and due to not being able to afford lessons, they taught themselves. Developing and bettering his skills, Crome mainly painted in oils and together Crome and Ladbrooke went on to form the Norwich School of Painters movement in 1803, the first regional art movement in England (although Crome is often seen as the main founder and became the president of the society in 1808). He also taught at the Norwich School, a selective English independent school established in 1096. Crome’s work can be seen at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and the Tate Britain.

John Thirtle (22nd December 1777 – 30th December 1839)

John Thirtle, known for his miniaturism and watercolour paintings, was born in Norwich in 1777 and spent nearly his entire life in the city. He moved to London to start an apprenticeship in 1799 where he learnt how to make frames. After completing his apprenticeship, Thirtle returned to Norwich and began making picture frames and prints in a shop on Magdalen Street. He went on to become a member of the Norwich School of Painters, where he was vice-president between 1806 and 1812. He was elected as president of the society in 1814, however in 1816, Thirtle, alongside Robert Ladbrooke and other members, decided to separate from the society and create their own, the Norfolk and Norwich Society of Artists. Thirtle’s work can be seen in the Tate Britain.

John Sell Cotman (16th May 1782 – 24th July 1842)

John Sell Cotman was a Norwich-born landscape painter and etcher. After attending the Norwich School, he moved to London in 1798, aged just 16, and became a member of ‘The Monroe Circle’. Cotman mainly used watercolours to create his masterpieces and aged 18, Cotman exhibited his work in the Royal Academy of Arts, before travelling around England, Wales and Yorkshire painting landscapes. In 1806, Cotman returned to Norfolk and joined the Norwich School of Painters and became the president of the society in 1811. Cotman lived on the coast of Great Yarmouth from 1812 to 1823 and studied the beautifully natural form of waves, before moving back to Norwich. In 1825, Cotman became an Associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours and in 1834, Cotman was selected to be Master of Landscape Drawing at King's College School in London. Cotman’s work can be seen at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and the Tate Britain.

Frederick Sandys (1st May 1829 – 25th June 1904)

Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys was born in Norwich in 1829 and gained his love of painting from his father. He went to school at Norwich Grammar School and studied at the Norwich School of Design (now Norwich University of the Arts). Sandys was primarily a painter, illustrator and draughtsman. His drawings were exhibited at the Norwich Art Union from 1839 and he won Royal Society of Arts medals in 1846 and 1847. He subsequently moved to London and exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts and became acquainted with the Pre-Raphaelites (a secret society of young artists) in 1857. Sandy’s work can be seen in the Tate Britain.

Georgia Dawson

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