Ralston Crawford (September 5, 1906 – April 27, 1978) was an American abstract painter, lithographer, and photographer.
He was born in Canada, at St. Catharines, Ontario, and spent his childhood in Buffalo, New York. He studied art beginning in 1927 in California at the Otis Art Institute. After working at the Walt Disney Studio, he returned to the eastern U.S. for further study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and at the Barnes Foundation, where he was exposed to the art of Picasso and Matisse. In 1934, he had his first one-man showing at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Crawford was best known for his abstract representations of urban life and industry. His early work placed him with Precisionist artists like Niles Spencer and Charles Sheeler. Here, the focus was on realistic, sharp portrayals of factories, bridges, and shipyards. Later work was geometrically abstract. In Spain, he observed bullfighting, and the religious procession during Holy Week in Seville. In New Orleans, he painted and photographed cemeteries and jazz musicians (requiring a permit to visit bars normally restricted to blacks). Fortune magazine sent Crawford to the Bikini Atoll in 1946 to record a nuclear weapon test. During his abstract period, he said, "I don't feel obligated to reveal the forms. They may be totally absent to the viewer of the work, or even to myself, but what is there, however abstract, grows out of something I have seen. I make pictures."
In 1978, Crawford succumbed to cancer in Houston, Texas, survived by a wife and three children. At that time, his works were included in the public collections of the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Toledo Museum of Art.
The Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts
; the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences Charleston, West Virginia
; the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma
; Harvard University Art Museums
; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
, Washington D.C.
; the Honolulu Academy of Arts
; the J. Paul Getty Museum
, Los Angeles
; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
; the James A. Michener Art Museum Doylestown, Pennsylvania
; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art Kansas City, Missouri
; the Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University
; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
; the Mead Art Museum Amherst College
; the Museum of Modern Art
, New York City
; the National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.
; the Norton Museum of Art West Palm Beach, Florida
; The Phillips Collection Washington D.C
; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
; the Smithsonian American Art Museum Washington D.C.
; the Tweed Museum of Art University of Minnesota, Duluth
; and the Walker Art Center
; are among the public collections holding work by Ralston Crawford.
- Colta Ives; Janet S. Byrne; Suzanne Boorsch; Maria Morris Hambourg; David W. Kiehl. Recent Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art), No. 1985/1986. (1985 - 1986), p. 41.
- "Ralston Crawford is Dead at 71; Abstract Painter and Lithographer." New York Times: May 2, 1978. pg. 38.
- Agee, W.C. (1983). Ralston Crawford. Pasadena, CA: Twelvetrees Press.
- Freeman, R.B. (1962). The lithographs of Ralston Crawford. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.
- Freeman, R.B. (1973). Graphics '73 : Ralston Crawford . Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.
- Harnsberger, R.S. (1992). Ten precisionist artists : annotated bibliographies [Art Reference Collection no. 14]. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
- Haskell, B. (1985). Ralston Crawford. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art.
- Hirschl & Adler Galleries. (1991). Ralston Crawford and the sea. New York: author.
- Hirschl & Adler Galleries. (1993). Ralston Crawford: images of war. New York: author.