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Allan Rohan Crite: Artist-Reporter

Allan Rohan Crite, Sunlight and Shadow, 1941, oil on board, 25 1/4 x 39 in. (64.2 x 99.1 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. (click photo for larger image)Born in North Plainfield, New Jersey, Allan Rohan Crite (1910-2007) moved with his family to the Boston area, at an early age. During the course of his long life, Crite enjoyed an extensive career as a painter, draftsman, printmaker, author, librarian, and publisher.

Although he’s often labeled a Harlem Renaissance artist, Crite’s lifelong objective was to depict the life of African-Americans living in Boston as ordinary citizens of the middle class, rather than the stereotypical jazz musicians or sharecroppers featured in many other Harlem Renaissance works. Through his art, Crite intended to tell the story of African Americans as part of the fabric of American mainstream society and its reality. By using a more representational style, rather than an ultra-modern approach, Crite felt that he could more adequately "report" what he saw. He described himself as an “artist-reporter” noting that, “I've only done one piece of work in my whole life and I am still at it. I wanted to paint people of color as normal humans. I tell the story of man through the black figure.

Crite’s full body of work can be categorized into three basic themes: Negro spirituals; religious themes that emphasize non-European aspects of the Bible; and, general African American experiences. Crite also contributed to the African American art scene in Boston by creating the Artist’s Collective, a forum for emerging African American artists.

In the work featured here, three generations of neighbors gather in Madison Park, located in Boston's South End, to spend a pleasant afternoon beneath the shady trees.

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