05 March 2014

Art for Lent (1): ‘Great Gale at Yarmouth on
Ash Wednesday’ by John Berney Crome

Great Gale at Yarmouth on Ash Wednesday (1836), by John Berney Crome (Photo credit: Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery)

Patrick Comerford


Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51: 1-18; II Corinthians 5: 20b - 6: 10; Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I am spending the day on retreat, this year in the Jesuit Retreat Centre in Manresa, Clontarf, looking out to the sea at Bull Island, and a shoreline that has been severely battered in recent storms.

My choice of a painting for reflection this is morning is Great Gale at Yarmouth on Ash Wednesday by John Berney Crome.

This painting, dated 1836, is in oil on canvas, measuring 53.5 cm x 86.8 cm. It is held by the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, and can be seen in Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

The English landscape and marine painter John Berney Crome (1794-1842) is part of the Norwich School of artists and is sometimes known as John Bernay Crome, or by his nickname “Young Crome,” to distinguish him from his father, also John Crome, who was known as “Old Crome.”

Crome was born in Norwich, the eldest son of John Crome, who was also a landscape artist and a founder of the Norwich Society of Artists.

For a time, he assisted his father in teaching, before becoming landscape painter to the Duke of Sussex. He became a member of the Norwich Society of Artists and many of his pictures were exhibited there from 1806 to 1830. He became Vice-President of the society in 1818 and was President on several occasions.

When his father died in April 1821, Crome continued his father’s art teaching practice. He moved into his father’s family house in Gildengate Street, Norwich, adding a studio.

From1811 to 1843, he exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Society of British Artists in London. During many visits to continental Europe, he drew and painted in France, Holland, Belgium and Italy.

Crome had an extravagant lifestyle and went bankrupt in 1831. The contents of his father’s house were sold, and many of “Old” Crome’s paintings and his own works were disposed of.

In 1835, he moved to Great Yarmouth, and there he continued to teach drawing until his death in September 1842. Many of his works can be found at the Castle Museum in Norwich, including the oil painting I have chosen for this morning’s meditation.

The Gospel reading in the Lectionary this morning tells us: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6: 19-21).

This morning’s painting, Gale at Yarmouth on Ash Wednesday (1836), was painted by Crome a year after he had moved to Great Yarmouth, and five years after he had been declared bankrupt. It is a reminder of how all that we hold precious in life can be battered and damaged by the storms, and his life story is a reminder that those earthly things we treasure can be lost suddenly.

Yet, despite bankruptcy and huge emotional and personal losses, Crome continued to work, reminding us of the beauty of God’s creation and where our true riches are to be found.


Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Almighty God,
you have given your only Son to be for us
both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of godly life:
Give us grace
that we may always most thankfully receive
these his inestimable gifts,
and also daily endeavour ourselves
to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tomorrow: Art for Lent (2), The Battle between Carnival and Lent (1559) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca 1525-1569).

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