Ralston Crawford

American, 1906–1978

The Lines, 1942

Oil on canvas

8 by 6 inches

Signed Crawford lower right

Crawford’s early paintings depict industrial structures such as grain elevators, bridges, boat yards, and factories rendered in flat areas of color delineated by precise lines. In the 1940s Crawford’s subjects became increasingly abstract as he focused on details such as bridge trusses and ship’s rigging, reducing them to their most basic geometric forms.

The Lines is among the earliest works in which the artist embraced complete abstraction. Despite the dissolution of recognizable forms, Crawford continued to base his paintings on actual structures, which he often identified in his titles. The architectural sources that informed the artist’s work are evident in The Lines, even though the title does not specifically reveal his subject.

Crawford received his early artistic training at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but his mature style was most significantly influenced by his exposure to the work of Cézanne and Matisse at the Barnes Foundation outside Philadelphia. Cézanne’s cubist forms are inherent in the structure of Crawford’s paintings, and Matisse’s bold palette influenced his experimentations with color.

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