Summary

This pencil and watercolour sketch shows a view of Hampstead in London, from the back of one of its streets of terraced houses, Wetherall Place. It is inscribed by the artist on the back with the location and date on which it was made – 26 June 1807 – a practice which Crotch developed during his years living in Oxford when he would go on sketching expeditions with the city’s drawing master, John ‘Baptist’ Malchair. Both men shared a preference for recording the humble, inconsequential corners and alleyways of the city, as well as sketching the open meadowlands just beyond its confines, and would inscribe their works with place, date and sometimes even the time of making.

Crotch was a professional musician, becoming the first Principal of the Royal Academy of Music in 1822. He was also an amateur artist and friend of the painter John Constable (1776–1837), whom Crotch met shortly after moving to London in 1805. By 1807, when this work was made, Crotch had taken lodgings in Hampstead where this watercolour was painted. An informal view from the back of one of Hampstead’s terraces, it anticipates by some fourteen or fifteen years similar sketches made in oils by John Constable when he was lodging in Hampstead in the early 1820s.

Crotch had met John Constable shortly after moving to London in 1805, and Constable was to make a drawing of the musician playing Mozart the following year. The two men remained friends until the end of Constable’s life. It is likely that Crotch would have shown Constable examples of his own work around this time. It is thus possible that Constable’s decision in 1805 to inscribe his own watercolours with the date and time of day was derived from the methodology adopted by Crotch and other members of the ‘Oxford School’. If this is so, it is an interesting – if rare – example of the amateur contribution to mainstream landscape painting in this period.

Further reading
Ian Fleming-Williams, 'Dr William Crotch (1775-1847): member of the Oxford School and friend of Constable', Connoisseur, vol.159, no.639, May 1965, pp.28–31.
Jonathan Rennert, William Crotch (1775-1847): Composer, Artist, Teacher, Lavenham 1975.

Anne Lyles
June 2010