Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Allan Rohan Crite passes

"The granddaddy of the Boston arts scene," Allan Rohan Crite, died at his home last Thursday of natural causes. Mr. Crite was 97, and though he was born in New Jersey, from the age of 1 on he spent all his life in Boston and its environs. Always a representational artist, he achieved most of his fame as a painter of the African-American, inner-city experience (School's Out, 1936, above left) but he was once quoted as describing his artistic object as threefold: "one, the story of black people in this city as I saw them; another one, the idea of the spirituals as part of the literature; the third, telling the story of man using the black figure." I personally felt this trinity, as it were, was most potently manifest in his explicitly religious work (always a tough sell in our secular age). Mr. Crite described himself as "a liturgical artist," and his spiritual drawings and prints, with their African angels, prophets, and priests - not to mention the taut purity of their designs (a drawing from his book All Glory, at right) - have a genuine spiritual energy rare in today's Christian art. (A lifelong Episcopalian, Mr. Crite also regularly contributed drawings to church bulletins.) When I interviewed Mr. Crite some years ago in his home in the South End, I was struck both by his languid charm and the strength of his optimistic spiritual conviction; he was confident that someday he would be with the angels, and I'm likewise sure that's where he is now. His funeral will be held this Saturday, Sept. 15, at 11 a.m. in Trinity Church in Copley Square.

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