Sunday, September 09, 2007

Allan Rohan Crite dies

Boston painter Allan Rohan Crite, “the dean of African-American artists in New England and a revered figure in the South End for many decades,” died Thursday at age 97, according to Mark Feeney in the Globe.

Crite grew up around Boston and his works often reflected the life of the city. He had written:
As a visual artist, I am in the communication business, as are all the disciplines of the arts: the performing arts in music and drama, the written arts from poems, sagas, news items, and all the broadcast media, from talking drums to electronic networks. As a visual artist, I am part of that tradition, a storyteller of the drama of man. This is my small contribution – to tell the African American experience – in a local sense, of the neighborhood, and, in a larger sense, of its part in the total human experience.
Crite’s health had been deteriorating, the South End News reported in May, “caused in part by a major heart attack and two strokes over the past four years.”

This spring his 1945 painting “The News” was included in the Boston Athenaeum’s bicentennial exhibition “Acquired Tastes.” (The Athenaeum is one of the best places locally to see his work, besides the Allan Rohan Crite Research Institute and Museum in his former Columbus Avenue home. The MFA apparently acquired its first painting by Crite this year, though it owns 33 of his drawings.) Crite depicts four African-American men gathered on a Boston street corner, one of them in his Army dress uniform, reading newspapers. You have to look closely at the headlines to find Crite’s subject: “President Roosevelt is Dead. Truman Sworn In.” World War II isn’t quite done. The president has died. Everything is in transition. And then you notice the sadness, the quietness, the loneliness in the men’s expressions.

Feeney reports that Crite’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 , at Trinity Church in Copley Square.


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