The Norwich Society of Artists was founded in 1803 and from 1805 until 1833 the Society held annual exhibitions of work in Norwich.
Principal artists of the Norwich School include the self-taught John Crome, John Sell Cotman and Joseph Stannard. The Norwich School's great achievement was that a small group of self-taught working class artists were able to paint with vitality the surrounding hinterland around Norwich, albeit with meagre local patronage. Far from creating pastiches of Dutch seventeenth century, Crome and Cotman, along with Stannard established a school of landscape painting which deserves far greater fame; the broad washes of Cotman's water-colours anticipate French impressionism.
A major factor why the Norwich School are not as well known as other painters of the period, notably Constable and Turner is primarily because the majority of their canvases were collected by the industrialist Jeremiah Colman (of Colman's mustard fame and thereafter been on permanent display in Norwich Castle Museum since the 1880's. This lack of exposure was remedied in 2001 when many of the major works by the Norwich School were exhibited for the first time outside of Norwich at the Tate Gallery, London.
In 1986 Norwich Castle museum acquired a late masterwork by John Crome entitled Back of New Mills Evening dated circa 1812-1819. It is interesting to note that in the composition of this painting there is a small boy trailing a toy boat from the stern of a boat. This identical motif also occurs in Joseph Stannard's masterwork Thorpe Water Frolic of 1828. Stannard had in fact requested Crome for tuition in painting as a young man, Crome refused and in turn Stannard broke away from the 'Norwich School', his relatives and friends never forgiving Crome for the snub to Stannard. Such was the intense rivalry between the major painters of the Norwich School.
Society members (formally or by association) included:
London members of the society included: