American art underwent a transformation in the period 1940–55, and nowhere is that change better exemplified than in the work of Ralston Crawford (1906–1978).
Crawford’s painting during the 1930s had largely comprised dazzling Precisionist works that reflected advances in industry and engineering. During World War II, Crawford served in the Weather Division of the Army Air Forces, where he created pictorial representations of weather patterns for pilots. Crawford continued working as an artist throughout the conflict, receiving a commission to paint the Curtiss-Wright aircraft plant in Buffalo, New York, and in 1946, an assignment from Fortune magazine to record one of the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. These experiences had a profound impact on Crawford, and marked a major turning point in his life and art.
This exciting book presents a remarkable selection of Crawford’s paintings, drawings, photographs and prints from this pivotal era in the artist’s career. The catalogue, published by Merrell, accompanies the titular exhibition curated by Emily Schuchardt Navratil and organized by the Foundation in collaboration with the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Dayton Art Institute.
Accompanying the artworks are five perceptive essays that consider Crawford’s war years in the context of developments in both aviation and American art:
- Ralston Crawford’s War Years, by Rick Kinsel
- Ralston Crawford: From the Air, by Emily Schuchardt Navratil
- Weather + War + Fortune: Ralston Crawford’s Visual Storytelling, by Amanda Burdan
- Ralston Crawford in Context, by Jerry N. Smith
- Collage: Ralston Crawford, Photography + WW2, by John Crawford
Rick Kinsel is the President of the Vilcek Foundation. He has been on the board of directors of the Vilcek Foundation since its establishment in 2000, and was appointed Executive Director of the foundation in 2003. Rick manages the Vilcek Collection, conceives and facilitates the curation of travelling exhibitions based on the collection, and oversees the foundation’s primary operations in the award of prizes and grants in the arts, sciences and humanities.
Amanda C. Burdan
Amanda C. Burdan is Curator at the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where she has worked since 2012. A specialist in American Art, she has organized many exhibitions of the fine and decorative arts in the United States, several of which have explored regional expressions of American art and the transfer of styles from European sources. She previously served as Assistant Curator at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
John Crawford is the son of Ralston Crawford. After studying sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design, he moved to Italy in 1976 and was apprenticed for 10 years to Tuscan blacksmiths. Since returning to New York City, he has made sculpture using large- and small-scale industrial forging and machining techniques. His work has been exhibited at numerous venues in New York and throughout the United States. His research on his father’s art has focused primarily on the photographs as a lens through which to study Crawford’s paintings, drawings and lithographs.
Emily Schuchardt Navratil
Emily Schuchardt Navratil is the Vilcek Foundation’s Curator. An accomplished art historian, she has worked with the Vilcek Collection since 2009. She has curated the exhibitions With Color (2013, to coincide with the publication of Masterpieces of American Modernism from the Vilcek Collection), Ralston Crawford: Torn Signs (2019), Marsden Hartley: Adventurer in the Arts (2021), and the online exhibitions, The Synchromists (2020) and Oscar Bluemner’s Sonnet Series (2020).
Jerry N. Smith
Jerry N. Smith is Chief Curator and Director of Education at the Dayton Art Institute. He was formerly Curator of American and European Art at Phoenix Art Museum and Interim Director and Chief Curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida. He has overseen more than 50 diverse exhibitions, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester and the Power of Observation (2015), Andy Warhol: Portraits (2015), The Art of the Classical Guitar (2016) and Dorothy Height’s Hats (2019). His publications include Howard Post: Western Perspectives (2013) and Don Coen: The Migrant Series (2014).