Open main menu

CRANKE, JAMES (1746?–1826), artist, was born at Urswick-in-Furness about 1746. It is supposed that he studied in London, in the studio of his uncle, James Cranke (1717–1780), and afterwards settled at Warrington as a portrait-painter. There are few collections of portraits of this period in the houses of the gentry of Lancashire and Cheshire that do not contain specimens of his work, often attributed to Gainsborough, Romney, or Sir Joshua Reynolds. One of the best-known portraits by Cranke is that of Thomas Peter Legh of Lyme, colonel of the 3rd Lancashire light dragoons, a regiment Mr. Legh raised in 1797. This was engraved by Hardy. In 1779 the Tarporley Hunt Club commissioned Cranke to paint a portrait of their president, Mr. Barry, for 21l. This picture has generally been attributed to Gainsborough, but Mr. Egerton Warburton in gathering some notes for his history of the club found the record of the payment to Cranke. Lord Winmarleigh has in his possession a fine group of three family portraits in the same picture, being the likenesses of Miss Frances Patten, Mrs. Prideau Brune, and Peter Patten (afterwards Peter Patten Bold). He has also a portrait of his great-aunt by Cranke, which was sold at the Bold Hall sale, and fell into the hands of a London dealer. By him it was christened ‘Fidelity,’ a long-lost work by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and is said to have changed hands for 1,200l. Fortunately it was repurchased by Lord Winmarleigh for a very moderate sum. Cranke had considerable success as a copyist. One of his works, ‘The Holy Family,’ after Andrea del Sarto, hangs above the communion-table of Trinity Church, Warrington, with an inscription behind it stating that Cranke was the painter in 1776. Cranke's style was that of the school of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Gainsborough. Though inferior to these masters in the art, his work had great merit, as he had a thorough knowledge of drawing, colour, and composition. Cranke exhibited twelve pictures at the Royal Academy between 1775 and 1820. After spending many years in the full practice of his profession at Warrington, he left that town about 1820, and returned to his native place, Urswick. The parish register contains this record: ‘James Cranke, of Hawkfield, passed away, 1826, aged 80 years.’

[Memoir by W. Beamont.]

A. N.