Working in partnership with Dereham Heritage Trust, aboutDereham has published a book about Dereham’s most celebrated artist, John Craske. The publication has a number of rarely seen photographs of John and some members of his family as well as numerous full colour images of many of his artworks. Please see below for details.

The Life and Work of John Craske, 1881 – 1943

The fish shop at No 21 Norwich Street with smokehouse behind

John Craske was the third child of the eight children of Edward and Hannah Craske. Together with his two older brothers and his father, he went deep sea fishing from the age of 14. But it was a hard way to earn a living and the family left the coast and moved to Dereham in 1905.

They opened the first of three wet fish shops that the family owned in Dereham.

In 1917 John was called up into the army and for six months was in the training corps, later posted to The Bedfordshire Regiment, Transport. John suffered a bout of influenza and was hospitalised before being discharged into the care of his wife, Laura, in 1918.

John and Laura lived in and near Dereham for the rest of their lives and, when John was well enough, he would help in the fish shop and smokehouse. The house where they lived and the former shop premises can still be seen in Dereham.

Their doctor, Dr Duigan, recommended painting as a pastime to occupy John during his frequent periods of ill-health. Later, when he was bed-ridden sometimes for weeks or months, he stitched the most beautiful embroideries. Some of his paintings and embroideries were collected by American art lovers.

John’s early paintings and embroideries were exhibited at the Warren Gallery, London, in 1930 and received favourable reviews in The Times newspaper, leading to a second exhibition. His confidence boosted by sales of these early works, John embarked on more ambitious projects, including the famous Beach Scene of which the American art collector Sylvia Townsend Warner wrote:

“Wool-foamed waves ran along the bottom, under the narrow skyline were emerald green and purple hills, dotted with red bungalows, and parted with white roads. The road from the beach bisected the panel, on it was a fish laden cart, a man with a creel, and the vicar posting a letter…. “

She continues: “To the left on the beach was a fish group – the auctioneer with a bell, buyers running, a full-faced policeman to see fair play. On the right were creels of fish unpacking, a man hammering whelks, children sailing toy boats. The whole composition was violently full-faced and direct and crackled with vitality…….”

Full colour booklet about John Craske, his life, his paintings, and his evocative embroidered pictures

The 28 page booklet describes in detail what life was like for the fisherman turned artist and his devoted wife Laura. It includes many never seen before pictures of his art as well as rare photographs of the family.

To purchase a copy of the full colour booklet, please click on the image to the right.

Many people have been moved by the story of John Craske and his life and remarkable art.

The 28 page booklet has over 30 pictures, some never seen in print before. We are grateful to the organisations and individuals who allowed us to use their images for this publication which is dedicated to bringing the art of John Craske to a wider audience.

Below are a few comments from readers of the book:

Life and work of John Craske Book
Click the image to buy a copy of the book

“It certainly is a lovely quality item and great to see it done in colour.”
“it’s special to see”……

“I think the book is splendid!”
“That is fabulous, …. we are very impressed.”

“The booklet looks beautiful.. “
“It’s well written and beautifully presented”

The life and work of John Craske in song

The life and work of John Craske was set in song and premiered at the Sheringham Museum at the Mo on the 7th July 2020, performed by Dereham’s own Anto Morra.

With thanks to Jeff and Mhairi of Norfolk Nuggets for filming and editing a superb production to professional broadcast standards.