Farewell Brother Crichlow

Ernest Crichlow spent his entire artistic career painting and drawing the African American experience. He was involved in the 1930’s Harlem Renaissance, worked in the Federal Art Project as part of the Great Depression era Works Progress Administration, and in 1942 was an exhibiting artist in New York City’s very first exhibit of Black American artists - a show that included Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lewis. Crichlow’s art was rooted in social realism, and he was never afraid to tell the truth about American life. But through is artworks he also provided beauty, vision and hope to his beleaguered people.

The Lovers - Lithograph by Crichlow

[ The Lovers - 1938 Lithograph. Crichlow’s depiction of a Black woman being raped by a Klansman was created when the KKK was very strong in the United States. The artist never avoided controversy, and his social realist style caused him to confront many uncomfortable realities.

In a 2003 interview with CounterPunch Magazine, Crichlow said; "I never say 'art,' I say 'life' because that's what my art is. It's everybody's art whether they realize it or not. That's what art is, it belongs to everyone. But one thing I do think that is really important is that your art reflects what is important in your life. Whether you are a writer or a musician or a painter, where are you getting your creativity from? What I mean to say is that I don't think [modern students] see it as part of their life. They have a tendency to separate. Like ‘this is what I do for a living,’ as opposed to ‘this is my life.’”

Ernest Crichlow passed away on November 10th, 2005, at the age of 91. In singing his praises I’d like to make note of his passion for art and how he never allowed that fervor to wither in the face of adversity - a strength every artist must strive for in these trying times. For his dedication and enthusiasm, his tenacity and skill, my eulogy to Brother Crichlow ends with a salute, and the following words for those painters everywhere who mourn the passing of great artist- live like him.

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