Culture notes

Sketches of war and peace

15 May 2014

1:00 PM

15 May 2014

1:00 PM

Soldier scribes are rare, soldier artists rarer still, and soldiers who can write and draw rarest of all. General Henry Hope Crealock (1831–1891) was one such polymath. He scribbled and doodled as he fought his way around Victoria’s empire. He was a decorated veteran of the Siege of Sebastapol, the Second Opium War, India and the Anglo–French march on Peking in 1860. In the Anglo–Zulu War of 1879 (Rourke’s Drift and all that) Crealock commanded First Division and sent sketches of the campaign to the Illustrated London News. His work provides an invaluable account of the history he helped to forge.

After retiring in 1884, Crealock spent his declining years stalking deer in the Highlands. He kept a journal in which he drew and painted the land through which he passed. Crealock’s style was simple. He used blocks of colour and sharp perspective to define the featureless expanses before him. There is an aesthetic quality to his work, plus a great sense of care and attention to detail and, I suppose, the contentment of retirement.

The journal was edited and published posthumously by his brother. The book, Deer Stalking in the Highlands of Scotland, became the definitive work on this fashionable Victorian pastime (pioneered by bloodthirsty Prince Albert at Balmoral). Crealock’s original deer-stalking manuscript has been rediscovered recently and will go on sale at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair later this month (Olympia, 22 to 24 May). Worth a visit.

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