Crawhall's sensitive watercolours of animals and birds conveyed their individual character and nobility. His avoidance of the cloying sentimentality favoured by many Victorian painters reflected his deep respect for creatures whose undemanding company he enjoyed. Crawhall, who was from Northumberland, met fellow artist E.A.Walton through his brother-in-law, and became one of the so-called Glasgow Boys. Crawhall trained briefly in Paris but found painting with Walton, Guthrie and Melville far more significant for his artistic development. He was further inspired by visits to Spain and North Africa and his later works reflect his admiration for Japanese art.