Richard Crosse, a deaf artist, painted this miniature of A Gentleman, in a goldembroidered coat and a powdered wig. It was acquired by the Deaf Museum & Archive as a post-sale purchase from Christie’s, London, in December 2014.
Who was Richard Crosse?
Richard was the second son of John Crosse, a lawyer, and his wife Mary and was born in Knowle, near Cullompton, Devon, in 1742. He was privately educated as was his sister Alice who was also deaf. It is not known who educated them as unfortunately the family records were destroyed in a fire in the 1870s.
When he was 16 he won a premium at the Society of Artists in 1758 and went to study at Sibley’s Drawing School and the Duke of Richmond’s Gallery in London.
He became such a prolific painter, painting hundreds of miniatures between one and half inches and six inches high. An illustration of how well educated he was can be seen in his ledger held by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In his ledger he meticulously recorded every painting he did and sold. His records show that he painted a total of 61 works in fewer than five months between 13th September 1776 and 30th January 1777, which earned him a total of £572, excellent money for his time.
He did so well in his career that he was appointed Court Painter in Enamel to King George III in 1789. He fell in love with his cousin Sarah Cobley who declined his offer of marriage and she went on to marry someone else. Richard became an embittered recluse and retired from painting in 1798. He went to live with Sarah’s brother in Wells, Somerset. He died a wealthy man in May 1810 in Knowle.
He could never speak and communicated chiefly by gestures and family signs.