African American Episcopal Historical Collection obtains two Crite lithographs

December 31, 2007

Two hand-colored offset lithographs by Allan Rohan Crite, an African American Episcopalian and renowned artist, were donated to Virginia Theological Seminary's African American Episcopal Historical Collection (AAEHC). Housed at the Seminary's Bishop Payne Library, the AAEHC collects and preserves materials about African American Episcopalians and makes those resources available both for scholarly research and for the education of the wider community.

Purchased with funds from a grant from the Lippincott Fund of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, New York, the Crite lithographs, "In the Beginning" and "Glory to God on High," incorporate modern urban scenes, a characteristic common in Crite's works.

Allan Rohan Crite, known as "the granddaddy of the Boston art scene," served as the dean of African-American artists in New England and was renowned for his documenting of African Americans through scenes of everyday life in his "neighborhood paintings," his illustrations of Negro spirituals, and his images of religious themes. As Crite himself explained in the afterword for his The Revelation of Saint John the Divine: the King James Version, "I have tried to show through my drawings the sweep of the cosmic forces of Good and Evil in combat set against the background of the contemporary city. The worldly Babylon and the heavenly Jerusalem have particular relevance for today given our global turmoil and struggle...I wanted to help us share in the vision of Saint John the Evangelist as he speaks to us today, in terms of current times and circumstances."

Raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Crite was a lifelong Episcopalian and referred to himself as "a liturgical artist," acknowledging the artwork he had produced over the years for several weekly bulletins in Episcopal and Catholic churches. In 1994, Christ Church Bronxville, in New York, called Crite "the best-known artist in the Episcopal Church" and dedicated a stained-glass window in his honor.

A graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Massachusetts School of Art, Boston University, and Harvard University, Crite has received honorary doctorates from Suffolk University and Emmanuel College for his contributions as an artist and historian. In May 2004, Virginia Theological Seminary awarded Crite with a degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Crite's work has been exhibited at New York's Museum of Modern Art and is in the permanent collection of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Athenaeum, Harvard's FoggArt Museum, the Boston Public Library, the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Art, and the Addison Gallery of American Art. Other institutions where Crite's work appears in permanent collections include the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Phillips Collection, the Corcoran Gallery of American Art, and the St. Louis Museum of Art.

"We are very grateful to the Trustees of the Lippincott Fund of St. Thomas Episcopal Church (New York City), whose grant made our acquisition of these lovely lithographs possible," said Dr. Mitzi Budde, head librarian at Virginia Seminary's Bishop Payne Library.

The lithographs are available for viewing or study through the Virginia Theological Seminary Archives. Contact: Julia Randle at 703-461-1850 or jrandle@vts.edu to arrange an appointment.

Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women for service in the Church worldwide, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Currently, the Seminary represents more than 55 different dioceses and 7 different countries, for service in the Church.