African-American artist Allan Rohan Crite was born in 1910 in North Plainfield, New Jersey. When he was very young he and his family moved to Boston, Massachusetts. His mother encouraged him to pursue art and brought him up to respect both education and religion. In 1929 Crite graduated from English High School, and in 1936 graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Additionally, he studied privately in the libraries, galleries, and museums of Boston. He has been the recipient of many honorary degrees, including a B.A. in 1968 from Harvard University Extension School.
During the 1930s and 1940s, Crite’s work was influenced by the people, architecture, and daily activities of African Americans in the Boston districts of Roxbury and South End. His later work is also imbibed with the spirit of that era’s parades, games, conversations, and work. He once stated that “I’ve only done one piece of work in my whole life and I am still at it. I wanted to paint people of color as normal humans. I tell the story of man through the black figure.”
Author Barbara Earl Thomas described what she called “the Crite universe,” in which “the world is reflected through his faith, interest in history, and love of neighborhood. Rendered with a sharp eye and a graphic touch, his paintings tell a simple story about the quality of one day, a small activity, or historic or holy event. The content is conveyed through his attention to configurations on the surface, the details of the brick, the color of the wood, the texture of the hair. When he gives us these details, it is not to merely demonstrate the prowess of his draftsmanship but rather to help us understand the structure of reality as he sees it."
A devout Episcopalian, Crite has authored and illustrated three religious books. He also paints triptychs, altars, murals, vestments, and banners for local churches.
Crite’s artwork was the subject of an exhibition in 2001 at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington, entitled “Allan Rohan Crite: Artist-Reporter of the African American Community.” A catalogue with the same name was published in conjunction with the exhibit.
Now in his nineties, Crite continues to live in the Boston area.