First major retrospective charts five decades of work by acclaimed artist Victoria Crowe4 min read



Blue Snow and Fiery Trees, 2011 oil on linen, 101.5 x 127 cm

In May 2019, Edinburgh’s City Art Centre hosts the first major study to showcase the esteemed career of one of the UK’s leading artists, Victoria Crowe.

Embracing every aspect of Crowe’s practice, the exhibition will feature over 150 pieces, stemming from youthful student paintings which laid the foundation of her career to the assured landscapes and portraits of recent years.

Drawing from 50 solo shows, 50 Years of Painting will trace the rise of this exceptional artist, from early beginnings in which we catch glimpses of riches to come, through the highs and lows of her personal and professional life played out on canvas and paper, to recent years, where the cold light of a winter’s day in the Scottish Borders or the heat of a Venetian sunset still echo Crowe’s appreciation of early Renaissance and North European Painting.

The show is displayed throughout the City Art Centre, spanning four gallery floors. Each floor will have its own distinctive colour key complementing the content of the work. A new film is being commissioned which will set the scene for visitors, giving them a personal glimpse into the artist’s practice to accompany the exhibition.

As one of Britain’s most distinguished painters, Victoria Crowe needs little introduction. Over a long, illustrious career, she has established herself as an artist whose work is instantly recognisable. Her oeuvre embraces many different concepts and art forms – she is skilled at portraiture, landscape and still life, and moves effortlessly between painting, printmaking and designing for tapestries, and most recently a collaboration with Matthew Rose for a performance of Winterreise, and with the composer Thea Musgrave.

Crowe said: “This exhibition spans a long period of my work as an artist – a chance to see the threads of ideas and their development over time. It will trace many concerns in the work, from starting points in sketchbooks through to finished works, commissions and the fruits of recent residences.”

Crowe was born in Kingston-on-Thames in 1945. She studied at Kingston School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art in London. In 1968, Robin Philipson, then Head of the School of Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art, invited her to join his staff. Her appointment at the age of twenty-three marked the start of a distinguished teaching career spanning thirty years. In 1969 she had her first solo show in London and the following year at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh. Since then she has been exhibiting regularly throughout the United Kingdom.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, membership of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour, and her election as an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy and of the Royal Watercolour Society reflected the esteem in which she was held by her peers. She has been the worthy recipient of numerous awards, bursaries, scholarships and residencies including the Sir William Gillies Bequest award and the prestigious Senior Visiting Scholar to St Catherine’s College, Cambridge.

In 2000 her exhibition ‘A Shepherd’s Life. Paintings of Jenny Armstrong’ was displayed in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. It was a landmark event in the artist’s career. The public response to her paintings of Pentland Hills’ shepherdess Jenny Armstrong was overwhelming. The show subsequently toured to seven further UK venues.

By the turn of the new century, Crowe had already become one of the most respected portraitists of her generation. Early portraits included the eminent psychoanalyst Dr Winifred Rushforth (1982), poet Kathleen Raine (1984) and Member of Parliament Tam Dalyell (1987). Since then commissions have been frequent, ranging from a double portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch (2016) to Professor Peter Higgs (2013). And within the last few months, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery unveiled Victoria’s most recent portrait, of HRH Prince Charles.

A book will also be published to complement the exhibition, in partnership with Sansom and Co, featuring a range of authors, from gallery dealer, art historian and critic. Discover more: www.victoriacrowe.com.

Sheep, Shepherdess and Harbour Craig, 1975 oil on board, 79 x 99 cm

Sheep, Shepherdess and Harbour Craig, 1975 oil on board, 79 x 99 cm

December 25th, 1981 oil on board, 91.5 x 71cm

December 25th, 1981 oil on board, 91.5 x 71cm

Tramonto, 2012 oil on linen, 76 x 101.5 cm photo: Andy Phillipson

Tramonto, 2012 oil on linen, 76 x 101.5 cm photo: Andy Phillipson

The Shortest Day, 2012 oil on linen, 71 x 91.5 cm

The Shortest Day, 2012 oil on linen, 71 x 91.5 cm

Forty Lilies, 2010-11 oil on linen, 114.3 x 122 cm

Forty Lilies, 2010-11 oil on linen, 114.3 x 122 cm

Venetian Mirror with Remembered Landscape, 2018 oil on linen, 101.5 x 127 cm photo: John McKenzie

Venetian Mirror with Remembered Landscape, 2018 oil on linen, 101.5 x 127 cm photo: John McKenzie

Large Tree Group, 1975 oil on board, 91.5 x 101.5 cm photo: Kenneth Gray

Large Tree Group, 1975 oil on board, 91.5 x 101.5 cm photo: Kenneth Gray