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Art in Scotland
William Crabb

Born, 1811; died, 20th July 1876.

Another almost now equally unknown artist, whose works are about as rarely to be seen as those of Cooper, and who ranked high in the opinion of his contemporaries, was William Crabb, born in 1811. He was a native of Laurencekirk, and one of the students at the Trustees' Academy. When the three large pictures by Etty were purchased by the Scottish Academy, Crabb being then an advanced student, was among the first who were permitted to copy from them. His work having attracted the attention of Grant—afterwards Sir Francis Grant of the Royal Academy—he was employed by that artist as an assistant for painting draperies, &c., and accompanied Grant to London. He was of a singularly retiring disposition, the very reverse of a self- assertive advertising artist. He latterly became totally blind, and died at Laurencekirk in the house of his sister, who with touching affection waited upon him till he breathed his last. Being always most kind to the younger members of his profession, many of them benefited by his advice.

He was practising his art in Scotland till about 1845, and painted numerous portraits, very similar in style, and sometimes almost equal in quality, to those of Raeburn. He painted with great rapidity, and, like Cooper, for small remuneration. A portrait of Mr Monteith of Carstairs—that of an old man in a blue coat—of great excellence, was paid for with Numerous others of high merit are still in the mansion-houses of Scotland; and it is told of him, in illustration of his facile execution, that he went from Glasgow to Manchester and finished a whole-length portrait within two days. In Glasgow he exhibited a large picture of Joseph's Brethren showing the Coat to Jacob; an Incident in the Life of the Bishop of Mearns; and a small cabinet picture of high quality, entitled Will ye gang to the Highlands, Leezie Lindsay?

His portrait of Richard Monckton Mimes, M.P.,was very notable in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1848, not only for its striking likeness to the original, but for its artistic qualities of natural pose and movement, forcible execution, and happy contrast between the stiffness of the dress and ease of the head. In the following year, although placed rather high, his small full-length of George Mackenzie, Esq., in Highland costume, with a lady seated near him, attracted attention by its pictorial treatment, decided painting, and fresh and brilliant colour. A youth and maiden (R. A., 1850) seated under the shade of a hawthorn-tree, characterised by his usual qualities, was succeeded in the following year by his more important picture of Ahab and his queen Jezebel surprised by Elijah in the Vineyard. In the latter picture the king is represented, after having left his seat, as "fallen into a supplicating attitude at the approach of the prophet, who stands calmly on the right;" showing "a striking originality in the costumes of the figures, which have been adapted from the Nineveh remains, and remarkable for its decided style, unexceptional drawing, and powerful colour."

One of his pictures, an early and not very favourable example from the 'Lady of the Lake,' was exhibited at the Edinburgh International Exhibition of 1886. Another of his works is now (1889) in the Winter Exhibition of the Royal Academy in London.

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