Crome, John Berney


John Berney Crome was born in Norwich, Norfolk. He was the eldest son (of two) of eight children of John Crome a distinguished landscape artist and founder of the Norwich Society (school) of Artists. John Berney Crome attended Norwich Grammar School until he was 18 years of age, where a friend and fellow pupil was George Vincent (another artist of the Norwich School). As a child, with ambitions of becoming an artist, he accompanied his father on sketching expeditions. By the age of 12 years he was painting in oils and at 16 years was sketching landscapes in water colour. A year later he was selling his paintings. It is said that he inherited the charm of his father. He was an articulate and a good speaker.

Later, Crome assisted his father in teaching, and was appointed landscape painter to the Duke of Sussex. He became a member of the Norwich Society of Artists and exhibited many of his pictures there between 1806 and 1830. He was appointed Vice President of the society in 1818 and subsequently President on several occasions, firstly, in 1819, at the age of 25 years.

On the death of his father in April 1821, Crome continued his father's art teaching practice and occupied the family house in Gildengate Street, Norwich, to which he added a studio. Now, he was probably the leading figure in the Norwich art world. In 1822, the Norwich Mercury, reviewing one of his paintings, felt that he promised to surpass the talents of his father. This promised was never fulfilled. In conjunction with John Sell Cotman (another Norwich School painter who for some time lived at 83, Southtown Road, Great Yarmouth; Plaques in and around Great Yarmouth and Gorleston pp104-5), Crome took a lively interest in the re-opening of the Norwich Society of Artists in 1828, which had closed in 1825 after the demolition of its old premises.

John Berney Crome had many works exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Society of British Artists in London. He made many trips to the continent, drawing and painting in France, Holland, Belgium and Italy. From the mid 1820’s, he painted interminable moonlight scenes. His most famous painting is the Yarmouth Water Frolic, thought to have been started by his father. 

Because of his extravagant habits, Crome was made bankrupt in 1831, when the contents of his father's house were sold, and many of his father’s paintings and his own works were disposed of. He moved to Great Yarmouth in 1835, where he continued to teach drawing. He had health problems and, perhaps, a drink problem. He died in September 1842 at his home, 19 King Street, Great Yarmouth. After his death, the Norwich Society of Artists collapsed.

Crome was twice married, leaving a widow, but no children.

John Berney worked in oils, water colours and pencil, painting coastal and rural scenes, both at home and abroad. His work shows the influence of his father, and he painted many moonlight effects. Many of his works can be found at the Castle Museum in Norwich.

The Norwich Society of Artists was started in 1803 by John Berney Crome’s father, John Crome (Old Crome) (1768-1821) and his friend Robert Ladbrooke (1770-1842), as a club where local painters could meet to exchange ideas. Its members included: Henry Bright, Old and Young Crome, Joseph Stannard, James Stark, George Vincent, John Sell Colman, Thomas Lound, etc. The Norwich School's unique achievement was the production of a large body of landscape oils and watercolours, painted largely in the open air by a comparatively small group of self-taught working-class artists.


Hemingway, Andrew, The Norwich School of Painters, Phaidon, Oxford, 1979


Yarmouth Water Frolic by John Berney Crome 

Yarmouth Bridge 1837 by John Berney Crome 

Moonlight over Breydon 1842 by John Berney Crome