The Brandywine River Museum of Art will reopen to the public on Sunday, June 20, 2021, with a new special exhibition, Ralston Crawford: Air & Space & War. During its temporary closure, the Museum underwent several facility renovations. Additionally, the Museum’s other galleries have been refreshed with paint and rehung with a new selection of recent acquisitions and loans, as well as rarely seen works from the permanent collection.
On view through September 19, 2021, Ralston Crawford: Air & Space & War will explore U.S. aviation and military history through the art and personal experiences of the renowned American Modernist Ralston Crawford. Organized by the Vilcek Foundation, in collaboration with the Brandywine, this focused exhibition will feature an extensive collection of nearly 80 works by the artist, including drawings, photographs, paintings and lithographs from the 1940s that narrate his involvement with aerospace and World War II.
Highlighting Crawford’s encounters with aviation and war from many angles, the collected works illustrate the influence of the artist’s own military service in the U.S. Army Air Force, as well as the commissions he undertook at the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Plant in Buffalo, and his assignment to document nuclear weapons tests conducted by the U.S. Joint Army/Navy Task Force at Bikini Atoll for Fortune Magazine in 1946.
“Ralston Crawford: Air + Space + War traces the dramatic evolution of Ralston Crawford’s art in the 1940s, which was influenced by aviation—from his personal experiences in flight, to his exposure to the construction of airplanes and his knowledge of the destruction they wrought in war,” said Emily Schuchardt Navratil, curator for the Vilcek Foundation. “Crawford’s insight into warcraft as a result of the Curtiss-Wright commission and his experience—from knowledge of aircraft, of military exercise and of propaganda—forged the themes that he would explore for the rest of his artistic career,” added Vilcek Foundation President Rick Kinsel. “His mature works vibrate with tension, rendering elements of war, culture, and ritual, with horror and awe—and beauty.”
In the late 1920s, Crawford studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Barnes Foundation in Merion, and then later lived and painted in Exton and Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania in the late 1930s. He was also a visiting art instructor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in 1940. In World War II, he served in the Weather Division of the Army Air Force, heading the Visual Presentation unit—where he created pictorial representations of weather patterns for airplane pilots—and continued working as an artist throughout the war. During that time, he was exposed to “endless plane tragedies,” which he recorded in works like Bomber, 1944, and Air War, 1944. As the exhibition will illuminate, these experiences had a profound impact on Crawford and marked a major turning point in his life and art.
In addition to this landmark exhibition, the Museum has a full slate of engaging virtual and socially distant in-person events scheduled throughout the summer. All upcoming events can be found at www.brandywine.org/events. More details on the exhibition can be found at www.brandywine.org/crawford.
Visitation information is available at www.brandywine.org/reopening