American Art

American Art

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 4. RALSTON CRAWFORD | BARN, EXTON, PENNSYLVANIA.


Auction Closed

September 17, 04:16 PM GMT


60,000 - 80,000 USD

Lot Details



1906 - 1978


signed CRAWFORD (lower left); also titled BARN, EXTON, PENNSYLVANIA and dated 1935 (on the stretcher)

oil on canvas

16 by 20⅛ inches

(40.6 by 51.1 cm)

The artist

Estate of the above

Robert Miller Gallery, Inc., New York

ACA Galleries, New York

Luhring, Augustine and Hoades Gallery, New York

Richard B. Freeman, Ralston Crawford, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1953, no. 35.1, p. 44

Barbara Haskell, Ralston Crawford, New York, 1985, p. 27, illustrated fig. 17, p. 26

Born in 1906, Ralston Crawford was raised in a shipping family and spent much of his youth surrounded by cargo vessels and industry. These early experiences living among the material emblems of America—factory buildings, bridges, and docks—would have an impact on the trajectory of his later career as an artist. Initially influenced by European modernists like Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse, Crawford soon aligned himself with the Precisionist movement of the 1930s and his subjects focused on abstracted hard-edged industrial scenes, similar to those of Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth. Characterized by sharp demarcation, simplified forms, and modern compositional cropping, the present work is a remarkable example of Crawford’s ability to reduce a clearly recognizable subject to its abstracted structural essentials. Describing the artist’s graceful method of simplification, art historian Barbara Haskell summarizes: “His sharply edged geometric forms, tightly fit together in shallow-spaced compositions, expressed the rigor of structural art while retaining an accessible subject matter distinctly related to the American experience” (Ralston Crawford, New York, 1986, p. 37). 

Writing on the influence of Crawford’s distinctly American modernist aesthetic and subject matter, the art historian William C. Agee states: “his type of hard-edge, precisionist art has formed an unbroken line of art that extended from the realist portraiture of John Singleton Copley, to precisionist abstraction of the 1930s, through the abstraction of Stuart Davis and Ellsworth Kelly in the 1950s, to the minimalism of Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt in the sixties. It is a tradition just as strong and painterly as expressionist art, and should be recognized as holding a place of equal importance in American art. The drive to clarify has been intrinsic in modern art, for the artist, like the scientist, often seeks the compact and elegant solution” (Ralston Crawford, New York, 2001, p. 9).