18th Mar, 2023 9:30 GMT/BST

British, European and Sporting Pictures

  Lot 1077


William Crabb (1811-1876) Scottish
Portrait of Captain Thomas Whyte (1782-1848)
Signed and dated 1838, oil on canvas, 90cm by 70cm

Inscribed to partial label verso

William Crabb, otherwise known as 'Crabb of Laurencekirk' was a Scottish painter of portraits and historical scenes.

Crabb trained at the Trustees Academy, the precursor to the Edinburgh College of Art which educated prominent painters including Sir David Wilkie RA and Sir William Allan RA. In 1835, secretary to the Trustees James Skene remarked there is not an eminent name in the history of art in Scotland not to have trained at the Trustees Academy. Crabb’s work soon attracted the attention of Sir Francis Grant, President of the Royal Academy from 1866 to 1878. Grant employed Crabb as an assistant in London and he was tasked with painting draperies in Grant’s works.

Likened to Sir Henry Raeburn, Crabb excelled at portraiture; his portraits were lauded and recognisable for their ‘decided style’, and ‘powerful colour’.

Crabb would regularly exhibit his portraits at the Royal Academy, and his Fitz-James and Rodericj Dhu after the Combat was exhibited at the Edinburgh International Exhibition of 1886. Crabb’s portraiture can be found in many historic Scottish houses, and indeed in the collections of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture, University of Edinburgh, The Merchant's Hall of The Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh, The Stewartry Museum, and Leeds Civic Hall.

The collection of portraits of the Whyte family were painted by Crabb in 1838 and are a fine example of Crabb’s aptitude for portraiture. At the head of the family, is Captain Thomas Whyte (1782-1848), who was the husband of Jane (née Jean) Lyall, and father to Eliza Napier Whyte who married Surgeon James Smith RN (1796-1865). Crabb paints them all in an emphatic, romantic, and dramatic manner. In Pigot and Co.’s national commercial directory of “the whole of Scotland” and its “Nobility, Gentry and Clergy”, published in 1837, a year prior to Crabb’s portraits, a “Whyte Capt. Thomas, 115 High St” of Montrose, Forfarshire is listed. Captain Thomas Whyte is also mentioned at residing in 115, High Street in Montrose in 1846. Given, Montrose’s proximity to Crabb’s native Laurencekirk, and of Montrose’s and nearby Dundee’s strong shipping industry, it is quite possible that Thomas Whyte was involved in the increasing industrialisation of these coastlines of Scotland, and therefore involved in the increasing mercantile prosperity.

Sold for £500
Estimated at £500 - £700


In fully restored condition. Relined, cleaned and re-varnished. The surface is slightly flattened as a result of the restoration process. Some deterioration to the varnish slightly pitting in places. Certain amount of splashes which have a chalky or varied quality at and around his right shoulder within the background to the left of his right shoulder and running across and through his right arm and lower left-hand corner in the main. Slight stretcher shadow. Areas of mostly small-sized stable cracquelure. Odd minor surface scuff. Appears to be encapsulated bristle brush running vertically within the paint just left of his cane below handle approx 1cm in length. Fairly high gloss finish to varnish. Three patches of retouching towards upper left-hand corner, immediately below this within the background and a further notable patch to the left of this running along the left-hand side edge approx 30cm from upper left-hand corner. Further patch of retouching and strengthening lower right-hand corner which is probably the largest of those mentioned approx 7cm dia. Further retouches to the lower left corner in general. Retouches to lower edge right-hand side and corner. Concentrated patch of retouching to the upper right-hand corner and mostly running along right-hand side edge which is irregular but overall 45cm in length and approx 7cm in width. Finer and more sporadic retouches and strengthening to gentleman's hair, eyelids and some of the outline definition/shadows around the cravat. Other sporadic less notable retouches elsewhere within the background, parts of his jacket and elements of gentleman's hand. Some restoration has deteriorated and is visible by eye.


We are happy to provide Condition Reports to prospective buyers, but would welcome your request as soon as possible, preferably at least 48 hours before the Day of Sale. We cannot guarantee a reply to any requests made within 48 hours of the start of the auction. The absence of a Condition Report from a lot does not mean that the lot is in perfect condition. A Condition Report is an honest expression of our opinion, not a statement of fact and is provided as a service to the seller. All lots are available on public view ahead of an auction and we encourage prospective buyers to inspect an item in person where possible. Our Condition Reports are not prepared by professional conservators, restorers, or engineers, and are prepared with the naked eye unless otherwise stated.

Regarding Pictures, Prints and Works on Paper, works are not examined out of the frame, unless specifically stated. Tennants Auctioneers do not cover damage to gilded wood or plaster picture frames, or to picture frame glass whilst the item is in our possession.

We accept no liability for the opinions expressed in any Condition Report.

Auction: British, European and Sporting Pictures, 18th Mar, 2023

Traditional Picture Sales offer a wide range of oil paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints from the 15th to the early 20th centuries.

The sale includes the Picture Collection from Denton Hall, Ilkley, West Yorkshire which has been part of the NG Bailey group of companies for over 40 years. NG Bailey is the UK’s leading independent engineering and services business and is owned by the Bailey family. 

A fully illustrated catalogue will be available leading up to the sale.

Entries are invited for forthcoming sales


Sunday 12th March 11am-4pm, Monday 13th March-Friday 17th March 10am-4pm and morning of the sale from 8am. 

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