Crane, Thomas (1808-1859) (DNB00)

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CRANE, THOMAS (1808–1859), artist, was born in 1808 in Chester, where the family had been long resident. His great-grandfather was appointed house-surgeon to the Chester Infirmary when that institution was built about the middle of the last century, and his grandfather, who was a lieutenant in the royal navy, was a native of that city. The father of Crane was a bookseller in Chester. He was a man of considerable attainment. Young Crane early evinced a great predilection for the study of art, and fortunately, through the liberality of Edward Taylor of Manchester, in 1824 was enabled to go up to London and enter the schools of the Royal Academy, gaining in the following year the gold medal for his drawing from the antique. He seems, however, in 1825 to have returned to Chester and started on his professional career, for we find from his memorandum-book that he was hard at work there painting small miniatures of Sir Thomas Stanley, Lady Stanley, Mrs. Marsland, and many others. Henceforward he was busily engaged, taking portraits both in oil and water-colour, and, in conjunction with his brothers John and William, more especially the latter, in producing views in lithograph of the scenery of North Wales, and also likenesses in the same style of celebrated residents in that district, such as Sir Watkin W. Wynn and the eccentric ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ [see Butler, Eleanor, Lady]. In 1829 they designed tickets for the musical festival at Chester, and a portrait of Paganini was lithographed by William Crane. Thomas and William Crane in 1834 illustrated the first edition of Mr. R. E. Egerton Warburton's hunting songs. These lithographs consist of a portrait of Joe Maiden, twelve full-page scenes, and many vignettes. They also produced in 1836, for the Tarvin Bazaar, a set of designs to illustrate some verses by Lady Delamere. Crane first contributed to the exhibition of the Liverpool Academy in 1832. In 1835 he was elected an associate, and in 1838 a full member of that academy. He married in the following year and went to reside in London, but finding his health suffering, after trying Leamington and other places, he returned to Liverpool in 1841, and in the same year was elected treasurer of the academy of that town.

His health again giving way he removed in 1844 to Torquay, where he resided for twelve years, occasionally visiting Manchester, Liverpool, and Cheshire. Apparently re-established in health, he settled at Shepherd's Bush in 1857. But after two years of gradually failing strength he died at his house in the neighbourhood of Westbourne Park in July 1859. Crane's principal works were portraits in oil, water-colour, and crayon, but he also, when time permitted, produced subject pictures, most of which were hung at the Royal Academy. He appeared there nine times, first in 1842, exhibiting ‘The Cobbler’ and ‘Portrait of a Lady.’ He also was represented three times each in the Suffolk Street Gallery and the Institute. The following are among the most important of his works: ‘The Deserted Village,’ ‘The Old Romance,’ ‘The Bay Window,’ ‘Masquerading,’ ‘Scene from the Vicar of Wakefield,’ and ‘The Legend of Beth-Gelert.’ Perhaps one of the best-known portraits by him is that of Mr. Egerton Smith, editor of the ‘Liverpool Mercury,’ which was lithographed. Among others he had commissions from Lord Stanley of Alderley, the late Earl of Stamford and Warrington, the Wilbrahams, the late Marquis of Westminster (the present duke is one in a group of five children), and others in the districts already indicated. Many of his portraits are full-length but of small size, and their chief characteristic is the graceful ease of the grouping and the harmony of the landscape or other accessory introduced. Both these and his figure pictures show much elegance of treatment, fancy, and knowledge of composition.

His brother William died in 1843. His daughter Lucy is separately noticed. His son Walter is the well-known artist.

[Bryan's Dict. of Painters (Graves); information furnished by the family and other private sources.]

A. N.