Services held for Allan Rohan Crite, dean of African-American artists

October 3, 2007

Allan Rohan Crite, a well-known African-American artist and Episcopalian, died September 6 at age 97.

 

Crite died of natural causes in his Boston home, his wife, Jackie, told the Boston Globe newspaper. His funeral was held September 15 in Boston's Trinity Church in Copley Square.

"I am a liturgical artist," Crite liked to say. For many years he supplemented his income by providing artwork for the weekly bulletins of Episcopal and Catholic parishes in several states, according to the Globe article.

When Christ Church Episcopal in Bronxville, New York, dedicated a stained-glass window in Crite's honor in 1994, it lauded him as "the best-known artist in the Episcopal Church."

He was baptized in and grew up attending St. Bartholomew's Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He attended St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in the South End as an adult. Race and religion combined in his work in the many paintings he began executing in the 1930s of biblical scenes in which the figures were black and the settings were inner-city neighborhoods, according to the Globe's obituary of Crite.

Crite's purpose in doing so was threefold, he told the Smithsonian Institute: "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."

He saw his art providing "a link between something specific and parochial as far as racial identity is concerned to my faith and the general area of what you might call the pluralistic society in which we live."

A 2002 Boston Globe review called Crite "the granddaddy of the Boston art scene," hailing him as "a master of his craft and a treasure of his community." In 1986, the intersection of Columbus Avenue and West Canton Street was named Allan Rohan Crite Square.

Crite's work is in the permanent collection of many U.S. museums.

He was a representational artist in a period increasingly ruled by abstraction, the Globe said. And in a century where secular subjects dominated the visual arts, he did some of his most notable work on religious themes.

Crite published several books, including "Wish You Were There When They Crucified My Lord" (1944), "Three Spirituals" and "All Glory" (both in 1948), and "Book of Revelation" (1994).

The Boston Globe's complete obituary is available here.

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