Ralston Crawford (1906-1978)
The Michael Scharf Family Collection
Ralston Crawford (1906-1978)

Roof, 31 West 11th Street

Ralston Crawford (1906-1978)
Roof, 31 West 11th Street
signed 'Crawford' (upper left)--inscribed with title and bears artist's estate stamp (on a piece of the original stretcher)
oil on canvas
34 x 40 in. (86.4 x 101.6 cm.)
Painted in 1934.
The artist.
Estate of the above.
Robert Miller Gallery, New York.
Edward R. Downe, Jr., New York, by 1983.
Arthur Imperatore, Sr., New York.
Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, gift from the above.
[With]511 Gallery, New York; Elizabeth Moore Fine Art, LLC, New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2009.
R.B. Freeman, Ralston Crawford, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1953, p. 44, no. 34.13 (as Theatre Roof, #2).
W.C. Agee, Ralston Crawford, Pasadena, California, 1983, n.p., pl. 11, illustrated.
W.C. Agee, et al., The Scharf Collection: A History Revealed, New York, 2018, pp. 144-47, pl. 79, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Exhibition of Contemporary Oil Paintings, March 24-May 5, 1935, no. 317 (as 31 W. 11th Street, New York City).
New York, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., Modern Times: Aspects of American Art, 1907-1956, November 1-December 6, 1986, pp. 22-23, no. 14, illustrated (as Roof, 31 West 11th Street (Theatre Roof #2)).
New York, Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., Masters of American Modernism, New York, 2000, p. 30, illustrated (as Roof, 31 West 11th Street (Theatre Roof #2)).
New York, Owen Gallery, American Modern, April 12-June 12, 2001, n.p., illustrated (as Roof, 31 West 11th Street (Theatre Roof #2)).

Brought to you by

William Haydock
William Haydock

Lot Essay

Born in Ontario, Canada, Ralston Crawford studied art at several institutions, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Barnes Foundation, where he encountered the Precisionist art of Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth. Their abstracted depictions of modern America so fascinated Crawford that he soon began working in a similar mode. Striking in both scale and color, Crawford’s Roof, 31 W 11th Street is one of the artist’s first endeavors into his classic Precisionist style and a triumphantly modern depiction of New York architecture.

The building which gives this work its title, 31 West 11th Street, is a multistory Manhattan apartment building, which at the time afforded an unobstructed view of Crawford’s true subject, the former Sheridan Theatre. Demolished in 1969, this West Village theatre was situated only a block and a half west of the 11th Street roof. The theatre’s ornate interior lives on in a famed Edward Hopper canvas, The Sheridan Theatre (1937, The Newark Museum, Newark, Jersey). Reflecting his early explorations of photography, however, as well as his penchant for depicting industrial constructions, Crawford focuses here on the exterior of the structure. As Glen Umberger of the New York Landmarks Conservancy comments, “Crawford includes several distinguishing features of the Sheridan in his painting including the red brick walls, limestone string courses and pitched black roof, along with the ductwork and ventilators.” (unpublished letter, March 2019) A later work titled Theatre Roof (1937, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland) likely depicts the same iconic building.

The sharply minimized and graphic depiction of the theater façade in Roof, 31 West 11th Street distances the reality of modern city life at a far remove, allowing Crawford to focus solely on his particular approach to color, line and form. With its creative, photography-inspired cropping, bold American palette of red, white and blue, and sharp-edged geometric forms, Roof, 31 West 11th Street epitomizes the highly developed Precisionist style for which Crawford is best known.

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