Tire Jumping in Front of My Window
Allan Rohan Crite, American, 1910–2007
Height x width: 23 1/2 x 17 1/2 in. (59.7 x 44.5 cm)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvasboard
Melvin Blake and Frank Purnell Gallery (Gallery 327)
Allan Rohan Crite studied at Boston Latin School and at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and by the mid-1930s had begun to win recognition for his lively depictions of the street life of Boston’s South End. He worked in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project in the 1930s, and from 1940 to 1974 earned his living as an engineering draftsman for the Boston Naval Shipyard. Crite painted and sketched continuously, making street scenes, illustrations of spirituals, and images drawn from the New Testament. He displayed his work in shows organized by the Harmon Foundation (a nonprofit organization established to recognize African American achievement) but gave many of his paintings away, disinterested in self-promotion. Today he is counted among Boston’s most renowned African American painters.
Tire Jumping in Front of My Window shows the corner of Northampton and Dilworth Streets in Boston’s South End, the neighborhood where Crite lived from infancy:
I lived over that store for forty-six years. I looked out that window, down Northampton Street towards Columbus Avenue African Methodist Episcopal Church . . . Dilworth Street was an important phase in my life, where much of my major work as an artist was produced. link
A group of children line up in the street, taking turns playing with a large tire. Their urban game is witnessed by a vibrant parade of passersby, drawn outdoors by the summer heat. Crite’s figures, deliberately simplified, evince a tender affection for a rich and active African American community. Crite rendered more meticulously the yellow bricks and curved turrets of the streetscape, providing an accurate record of a part of Boston that has undergone significant changes and shifts in fortune over the course of the twentieth century. Crite completed the painting in 1935–36 and slightly reworked it in 1947. He returned to the composition again in a 1977 color print, 2 Dilworth Street, into which he inserted a self-portrait, showing himself as a younger man sketching the identical scene.
1. Allan Rohan Crite, quoted in John Stomberg, “From Downtown to Doughnuts: Realism and the Role of Image in Boston Area Painting,” in Painting in Boston: 1950–2000, ed. Rachel Rosenfield Lafo et al., exh. cat. (Lincoln, Mass.: DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, 2002), 126.
Janet L. Comey