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Annie I. Crawford
Annie Isabel Crawford (American, 1856-1942) was a noted artist, painter, printmaker and teacher. She is best known for her work during the Arts & Crafts movement in the U.S. during the early part of the 20th century. Annie was born in Buffalo on November 3rd, 1856, to John Crawford (1828-1893) and Elizabeth (née McKenzie) Crawford (1822-1884). An immigrant from Scotland, John Crawford arrived in America with only one shilling in his pocket. He became a successful businessman who owned the John Crawford & Sons Monument Works Company. His firm produced many of the elaborate headstones and memorials for Buffalo’s wealthiest families. Many examples of his artistry can be found in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Annie showed promise early as an artist, so her father whose desire was to be a sculptor, wanted her to have the art training that he had lacked. At the age of eleven years old, she began to study portraiture at the Fine Arts Academy in Buffalo, NY with Lars Gustaf Sellstedt (Swedish-American, 1819-1911) who was one of the founders of the academy in 1862. It would be hard to talk about Miss Crawford’s art career without including the talented artist Charlotte “Emma” Wharton Kaan (American, 1860-1949). Crawford and Kaan shared their life as well as an art studio from 1898 at 43 D.E. Morgan Building, 534-36 Main Street in Buffalo, NY, and later in 1904, in the tower of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union building at 86 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, NY. Annie’s work included landscape painting, portraits, still-life, hand colored carbon and platinum photographic prints, and woodcut prints in the Arts & Crafts style. She excelled with portraiture, especially of children, many of whom were nieces and prominent citizens.

“When I was a little girl my father wanted me to be an artist. It meant drawing from plaster casts all day long. I was only eleven and I just couldn’t stand it, those plaster things, just looking at them all day. So I sat down and looked trouble in the face and saw that if I looked into those things I could see little modelings, depths, new things that just weren’t there when you only looked at an object.”[1] Annie I. Crawford

In 1872, at the age of sixteen, she traveled to Europe to further her study in Rome and Paris for two years. Later in the states she studied certain working methods which she wanted to master, such as memory training and Chinese and Japanese watercolor methods. She studied three days a week for three months during the winter in Bates Hall at the Public Library in Boston, MA.

By 1902, Annie and Emma had developed a new process of reproducing original drawings so that prints resembled watercolor paintings. With trial and error, a method of relief printing was found that was specifically adapted to produce strong effects of light and shade. The process was intricate and the result was extremely delicate. Woodcuts were produced from original artwork and printed using one color ink, then finished by hand with watercolor. The original prints would not be considered color woodcuts, but rather hand-colored woodcuts. Producing prints from wood cuts wasn’t new, but the method employed was original, since it allowed the creation of original prints as well as photomechanical reproductions. No two prints were alike, and they had all the charm and beauty of a watercolor painting but were much less expensive to purchase for the general public.

Crawford also experimented with carbon and platinum photographic prints and letterpress halftones of her popular works (carbon and platinum prints are extremely stable and do not fade) and sold them with or without the hand coloring. Some painted photographs are almost indistinguishable from the original prints, drawings and watercolors. Photography was used as a means to reproduce artwork and not as a fine art medium as an end result. Annie and Emma often collaborated on paintings, prints or other works of art, signing both of their names to the piece. Arts & Crafts artist Charles Rohlfs (American, 1853-1936), with whom they were close friends, provided them with hand-wrought iron and mission oak frames for earlier original paintings and prints. Portraits of Charles Rohlfs and his wife Anna Katherine Green (American, 1846-1935), a noted author, were completed in 1905 by both of them, and as a fitting tribute, were later set into frames of his own design. Both Annie and Emma gave art classes and lectures in their spacious studio, with separate classes for watercolor, oil, black & white studies and pastels. Some classes involved models as well as still life arrangements.

Annie was a deeply spiritual person and felt from the early age of eleven, to be “guided” as she put it, by her inner spirit. She wrote about her art and profound faith in the wonderful “little book” Incredible Truths, which was written for her great niece’s children. It was edited and published long after her death by her great niece Janet MacDonald Mitchell in 1971, who was given the manuscript by Emma in the early 1940’s after Annie’s death. In the book, Annie describes many accounts of a guiding force or “action” within her art and daily life, and how it applied to strengthening her personal faith and spiritual growth. “I know that the air around me is not empty for I am conscious each day of being helped by an unseen power, that a kindly presence is near at hand directing me.”[2]. She learned to listen for the inner voice and to trust her intuition as a manifestation of this guiding spirit, which overflowed into every decision in her life. When she painted her floral pieces, she truly believed that she could communicate with flowers and receive their messages.

“I receive many messages through flowers—lessons of patience, lessons of hope. They affirm that our destiny is higher than theirs, is more personal; their mission is to give pleasure and cheer to those who are here for a little time; that we come and go but they remain, willingly fulfilling their destiny…They have been here, they say, from the beginning of creation, to give comfort…”[3].

Freshness of the flowers was essential to Annie in order to capture very quickly, their perfect beauty within a painting. “I know that flowers are sensitive to influences we cannot perceive.”[4]. She often picked flowers, or at times they would pick her, as she felt they all had their own different personalities. Certain flowers might be selected from a large bouquet and taken to another room to paint so as not to hurt the feelings of those that did not make the cut. She would listen and understand what the flowers were trying to communicate to help the painting process, in order to finish a piece in time before their freshness was gone.

Annie was a very giving and thoughtful person as a result of her faith, and endeavored to help the less fortunate by whatever means she could. She shared whatever she had, including jars of jelly, fresh flowers or money, and believed that “...we must share everything with someone in need in order to receive benefit from the thing itself”[5]. Her shared gifts, or “Raven”, were named from the bird that fed Elijah and staved off his hunger in the Old Testament. Annie kept only enough money earned through the sale of her artwork to meet her immediate expenses and gave the rest to others. Her spiritual faith brought her much happiness and peace in her work and her personal life, however according to relatives, the women were plagued with financial problems. Annie’s Depression-era poetry addressing corporate greed and working-class poverty reflected her own economic situation. She often bartered works of art for life’s necessities including clothing, hats and especially flowers. When Annie died in 1942, Emma produced a painting depicting the two of them in their old age, holding white canes and standing in the midst of a group of descending angels, presumably coming to take her partner of over forty years back to heaven. What Emma expressed in her painting, Annie had foreseen in a poem entitled “Another Life”.

The hand of Death,
Is soft and cool,
Upon my Brow;
And he is strong
To lean against
When one is tired.

Life stands by, smiling.
She came all the way
With me. Why, how
Strange it seems to think
I’m home at last!


Chronology:

1856- Born, November 3rd, to parents John Crawford (1828-1893) and Elizabeth (née McKenzie) Crawford (1822-1884). Her father’s business was the John Crawford & Sons Monument Works, which provided headstones for many of Buffalo’s cemeteries, Buffalo, NY.

1868-70- Studied portraiture at the Fine Arts Academy with Lars Gustaf Sellstedt (Swedish-American, 1819-1911), Buffalo, NY.

1872-74- Studied in Rome, Italy and Paris, France.

1878-79- Exhibited, at the National Academy of Design (now the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts, NYC.

1884- March 28, Annie's mother died and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY.

1889- Spent several months on an educational trip during the fall in Europe.

1890- February, reopened her studio, Buffalo, NY.

1893- July 31, Annie's father died and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY.

1896- Exhibited, June 6th, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo, NY.

c1897-98- Resided at 59 Chapin, Buffalo, NY.

1898- Resided at 826 W. Delevan, and maintained her studio with Emma Kaan at 43 D.E. Morgan Building, 534-36 Main Street, Buffalo, NY.

1902- Co-developed with Emma Kaan a new printing process of reproducing original drawings so that prints resembled watercolor paintings. Exhibited, November-December, show of originals, watercolor prints, carbon and platinum prints with Emma Kaan, George W. Benson Art Shop, 567 Main Street, Buffalo, NY.

1904-05- Resided at 54 W. Balcolm Street, Buffalo, NY.

1904-10- Maintained her studio with Emma Kaan, in the tower of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union building at 86 Delaware Street, Buffalo, NY.

1905- Annie and Emma both painted portraits of the famous Arts & Crafts artist and furniture craftsman Charles Rohlfs (American, 1853-1936) and his wife Anna Katherine Green (American, 1846-1935) a noted author, and set into his personally designed frames, Buffalo, NY.

1906- Exhibited, January, group show, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, between the two of them they exhibited 39 works; Annie exhibited eight oil paintings (one titled “Portrait of Miss Kaan”), six colored woodcuts and Emma exhibited nine oils (including a portrait of Charles Rohlfs), one pastel, six colored woodcuts (one woodcut was titled “Rosamond” and was likely a portrait of Rohlf’s daughter Rosamond), and collaboratively they exhibited nine colored woodcuts, at the newly inaugurated Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY.

1907- Exhibited, one collaborative woodcut and one of Emma’s woodcuts, as members of the Society of Arts & Crafts, Copley & Allston Halls, Boston, MA.

1908- Exhibited, April, two person show, with Emma Kaan, Annie exhibited six oils and Emma exhibited fifteen oils, and two collaborative oil figures of figure and landscape subjects, some of the paintings included were; "Portrait of Annie E. Marvin" (#1 Crawford), "Mignonette" (Crawford), "Reverie" (#3 Crawford), "Asters" (#6 Crawford), "Romance" (Collaboration painting), "Rachel" (Collaboration painting), "Summer" (#7 Kaan), "The Pond" (Kaan), "September" (Kaan), "A Berkshire Farm" (Kaan), "The Pathless Woods" (Kaan), "Autumnal Woods" (Kaan), "August Haze" (#16 Kaan), and "Across the Valley" (Kaan), at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Gallery V, Buffalo, NY.

1909- Exhibited, solo show, October 10th- November 8th, exhibition of twenty-seven pastels which were loaned by some key figures in the Buffalo art and social scene such as: Charles Rohlfs, Howard Dwight Beach (American, 1867-1954) and Cornelia Bentley Sage Quinton (American, 1880-1938), Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1910- Resided at 247 Lexington Avenue, Buffalo, NY. By 1910, their print production had ceased by then, but they both continued to paint, but there names no longer appeared in any records of national exhibitions (last local exhibit record was 1914). Annie and Emma continued to paint through the early 1940's.

1914- Exhibited, both in a group show, works on loan to the Albright Art Gallery for an exhibit of Buffalo Artists, Buffalo, NY, and afterward they ceased exhibiting locally as well.

1925- Resided at 183 Anderson Place, Buffalo, NY.

1928-31- Resided at 325 Bryant Street, Buffalo, NY.

1932-42- Resided at 123 Norwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY.

1942- Died, February 18th, at the age of 85, Buffalo, NY. “Annie Crawford is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo (Lot 5, Section P, Plot 12) and she is the only one in her family plot that does not have a headstone. It’s ironic that her family owned the Crawford Monuments which provided memorials in Buffalo's cemeteries.”[6] -David Martin of Martin-Zambito Fine Art, Seattle, WA.

1949- Emma died of cancer at Boston hospital in July, Boston, MA, and is buried at her family plot at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.

1971- Annie’s “little book” titled Incredible Truths is published by her great niece Janet MacDonald Mitchell, Alexandria, VA.

1992- Exhibited, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY.

2000- Exhibited, group show, “Drawings, 1900-2000 Regional Works from Public and Private Collections”, one drawing included in the show titled “Portrait of a Young Woman” (1898) graphite on cameo paper 9.25” x 10.25”, Fanette Goldman/Carolyn Greenfield Gallery Daemen College, Amherst, NY, in association with and in the Collection of Fineline Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

2011- March 25-April 23, exhibited, group show, "19th and 20th Century Paintings from the Collection of Sam Haney: 21st Annual Art Show and Sale", untitled painting of ‘Two Roses’ (#9) 20" x 10", oil on board, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY.

Exhibited other: National Academy of Design, NYC.

Memberships/Associations: Buffalo Society of Artists (1896), Buffalo, NY; Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (1907), Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Buffalo, NY; Buffalo Guild of Allied Arts (1910), Buffalo, NY; Society of Arts & Crafts (both), Boston, MA; Women’s Educational and Industrial Union, Buffalo, NY.

Collections: Permanent display, National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington D.C.; Annie I. Crawford (1856-1942) and Emma Kaan (1860-1949), “Romance” 1908, oil on canvas, 52” x 31”, Gift of Louis J. Moran and Douglas W. Van Dine, Permanent Collection of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY; 115 works in database (as of 10/31/15), Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Database Inventory of American Paintings, Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS), Washington, DC; Williams College, copy of painting titled "Georgioni" [sic], Williamstown, MA, -while Annie was in Italy at the age of 16 to study art, she copied the painting "...so faithfully that the copy included in a collection of her works purchased for Williams College was believed for a time by college officials to be the original."[7]; As well as a few pieces (unaccounted for) in various public collections; works held by their descendants and numerous collectors.

Publications by the artist: Incredible Truths, by Annie I. Crawford; and other assorted poems & short stories, published by her great niece Janet MacDonald Mitchell (1971), Alexandria, VA.

Publications: The Artists Bluebook, Subtitle 34,000 North American Artists to March 2005, 2005, black & white, AskArt.com Inc., by Dunbier, Lonnie Pierson (Editor); Who Was Who in American Art, by Falk, Peter Hastings (Editor), black & white, 1999; Art Across America (East), by William H. Gerdts, color, 1990; The Wayward Muse: A Historical Survey Of Painting In Buffalo, by Susan Krane, color, 1987; Dictionary of Women Artists, by Chris Petteys, black & white, 1985; Article in Heritage Magazine, “Intimate Spirits; Remembering the Art and Lives of Annie Crawford & Emma Kaan”, by David F. Martin & Michael L. James, Fall issue, Pg. 20, 2007; Art publication, “Art in Buffalo”, self publication by Lars Gustaf Sellstedt, 1910.

For possible additional information or images from this artist, please visit the AskArt link

(Written & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, 10/2008 (updated 10/2015). Sources: Too long to list here and are furnished upon request.)
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