Artist as theologian

Aritist Allan Rohan Crite, featured on Episcopal Cafe’s Art Blog, is memorialized by The National Catholic Reporter as a man who was “keenly aware of the presence of Christ in the world.”

Rachelle Linner of NCR writes of Crite:

Allan Rohan Crite, a painter of everyday African-American life and the granddaddy of the Boston arts scene, died Sept. 6 at the age of 97. At his funeral in Boston’s Trinity Church, the Rev. Edward Rodman, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, eulogized Mr. Crite as a “lay theologian.” It is a particularly apt description of this generous, gentle and gracious artist whose works are suffused with a profound incarnational sensibility and informed by a vocabulary of worship that draws from the sacramental life of the Anglican communion.

In his introduction to Three Spirituals from Earth to Heaven, a book of pen and ink drawings on Negro spirituals published in 1948 by Harvard University Press, Mr. Crite wrote that spirituals are a “religious musical literature dedicated to the adoration and worship of almighty God.” Mr. Crite’s work as a storyteller, liturgical artist and illustrator of the spirituals reveals a similar genius, a religious visual literature that moves the viewer to gratitude and praise.

Allan Crite’s contribution to American art is unfortunately underappreciated. This was due, in no small part, to his adamant refusal to engage in self-promotion. His importance is difficult to gauge because his work is scattered throughout 105 public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute and Washington’s Phillips Collection.

About his sense of the community of humanity:

Allan Crite had a profound sense of our common humanity, a lived philosophy that evokes the Pauline language of the Mystical Body of Christ. “We are part of each other. So anything that happens to any part of us, we all feel. But the thing is, we think that we’re doing something to somebody ‘over there’ who’s different from me,” he said. “Actually what we’re doing is doing something to ourselves through that person. So if we do an injury to that particular person, we’re hurting. And if something happens to that particular person, we feel it. That probably accounts for, you might say, the extreme and sharp pain that a lot of us feel. We’re thinking we’re doing to somebody else, but it’s happening to us. That, in my opinion, is the real tragedy.

Read the article and see more paintings here and here.

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