About the Object
In the course of his work for the Army Air Force during the war, Crawford was inundated with images of destruction, which he used in his own art, unconcerned with issues of authorship. This painting of the gray wreckage of a plane set against a red brick building is based on a photograph of a P-47 plane crash in the English countryside published in the December 1943 issue of IMPACT, a confidential publication produced by the assistant chief of Air Staff Intelligence.
In 1944, Crawford found little time for his own art, creating only four known paintings—including Bomber. Comparing the painting and related studies with the source imagery reveals the choices Crawford made in transforming the scene. Drawings focused on elements of the composition—working out the treatment of the windows, the bicycle, the plane tail, and their relationship to one another. Crawford cropped the composition, eliminating the building to the right, arranging the wreckage, and of course, added color. He also changed the orientation of the main structure, which recedes to the right in the photograph but is parallel to the picture plane in the painting. Bomber is a transformation of the photograph, not a transcription.
[Downtown Gallery, New York, NY, 1946];
[Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York, NY, 1958];
Estate of the Artist;
By descent to the Artist’s son, Neelon Crawford, Wyoming;
[Zabriskie Gallery, New York, NY];
New York. Downtown Gallery. American Art 1944: New Paintings and Sculptures by Leading American Artists, 19th Annual Exhibition. October 3-28, 1944, cat. no. 3.
San Francisco. M. H. De Young Memorial Museum. Ralston Crawford. May 4-June 4, 1946, np., cat. no. 24.
Portland, Oregon. Portland Art Museum. Ralston Crawford. August 17-September 15, 1946, np., cat. no. 24.
Baltimore Museum of Art. The La Tausca Art Competition, September 18-October 8, 1947, cat. no. 26, ill.
Urbana. College of Fine and Applied Arts. University of Illinois Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting. February 27-April 3, 1949, np., cat. no. 22, ill. pl. 60.
Milwaukee. Milwaukee Art Center. Ralston Crawford. February 6 – March 9, 1958, ill. p. 17, cat. no. 12.
Duluth, Iowa. Tweed Gallery. Ralston Crawford. May 1961, np., cat. no. 8.
Cincinnati. Contemporary Arts Center. Ralston Crawford, 1971. 1971.
New York. Robert Miller Gallery. Ralston Crawford, November 22-December 30, 1983.
New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. Ralston Crawford, October 3, 1985-February 2, 1986, pp. 60, 63, ill. p. 60, cat. no. 59.
New York. Hirschl & Adler Galleries. Ralston Crawford: Images of War. March 19-April 24, 1993, p. 9, cat. no. 3.
Chadds Ford, PA. Brandywine River Museum of Art. Ralston Crawford: Air + Space + War (June 19-September 19, 2021); Dayton, OH. Dayton Art Institute (October 30, 2021-January 23, 2022).
Ralston Crawford to Edith Halpert, July 23, 1944. Downtown Gallery Records, Artist Files, A – Z: Crawford, Ralston, undated, 1943-1955. Box 23, Reel 5546, Frame 299. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Ralston Crawford to Edith Halpert, September 1, 1944. Downtown Gallery Records, Artist Files, A – Z: Crawford, Ralston, undated, 1943-1955. Box 23, Reel 5546, Frame 301. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Ralston Crawford to Edith Halpert, October 10, 1944. Downtown Gallery Records, Artist Files, A – Z: Crawford, Ralston, undated, 1943-1955. Box 23, Reel 5546, Frame 304. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
M.R. “Some Carry on in Spite of Prosperity,” The Art Digest 19 (October 1, 1944), p. 15, ill.
A.B.L. “Brisk and Brighter: An October Opening,” Art News (October 1-14, 1944), p. 24, ill.
Alexander, Mary L. “Cincinnati Talent Displayed in War Paintings Exhibition,” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 29, 1946.
Alexander, Mary L. “To the Fact-Fond,” Cincinnati Enquirer, February 10, 1946, ill.
Thomas B. Robertson to Charles Alan, October 3, 1946. Downtown Gallery Records, Correspondence: Correspondence, Oct., 1946. Box 5, Reel 5498, Frame 858. AAA, Smithsonian Institution.
Wilma Freeman to the Downtown Gallery, December 16, 1946. Downtown Gallery Records, Correspondence: Correspondence, Nov.-Dec., 1946. Box 5, Reel 5498, Frame 1090. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Downtown Gallery Records, Artist Notebooks: Crawford, Ralston, undated, 1938-1956. Box 34, Reel 5567, Frames 975-976.
Freeman, Richard B. Ralston Crawford. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1953, p. 45, no. 46.7.
Cowart, Jack. “The Collections: Recent Acquisition: Coal Elevators by Ralston Crawford,” Bulletin (St. Louis Art Museum) 14, no. 1 (January-March 1978), ill. p. 14.
Agee, William C. Ralston Crawford. Pasadena, CA: Twelve Tree Press, 1983, p. 10, ill. pl. 23.
Glueck, Grace. “Gallery View; Two Who Went Beyond Cubism,” New York Times, December 4, 1983.
Tillyard, Virginia. “Ralston Crawford at the Whitney,” The Burlington Magazine 128, No. 995 (Feb., 1986), p. 176.
Shinn, Dorothy. “The Solitary Course of Ralston Crawford,” Akron Beacon Journal, August 24, 1986, p. 19, ill.
Harnsberger, R. Scott. Ten Precisionist Artists: Annotated Bibliographies. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992, p. 100.
Trout Gallery. Selective Visions: The Art of Ralston Crawford. Carlisle, PA: Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, 2001, p. 24.
Gorski, Susanna Brooks. “The Artists, the Atom, and the Bikini Atoll: Ralston Crawford Paints Operation Crossroads,” MA Thesis, The University of Texas, Austin, 2010, pp. vii, 36, 71, ill. p. 71, fig. 19.
Agee, William C. and Lewis Kachur. Masterpieces of American Modernism: From the Vilcek Collection. London: Merrell, 2013, pp. 226-227, 262, ill. p. 227.
Pochoda, Elizabeth. “Freedom and the abstract truth: Jan and Marica Vilcek’s collection of American modernist art,” The Magazine Antiques (May/June 2013), ill. pp. 100, 101.
O’Hern, John. “Modern Manor,” American Fine Art Magazine, September/October 2013, ill. pp. 14, 54, 58, 64.
Clawson, Michael. “The Calamity of War,” American Fine Art Magazine, May/June 2021, ill. p. 59.
Dorfman, John. “Air Power,” Art & Antiques, June 2021, ill. p. 27.