Ralston Crawford’s style is best described as Precisionism, a style popular in the 1920s and 1930s and characterized by the depiction of sharply defined, often industrial, forms. Primarily a painter, his artistic training began in the mid-1920s at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. While studying, he took a part-time job as an animator for the Walt Disney studios. In the fall of 1927, he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Crawford was deeply impressed by the work of Paul Cézanne, whose paintings he encountered in the collection of Dr. Albert Barnes, where he studied from 1927-1930. In the Barnes Collection, Crawford also saw the Precisionist art of Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth, whose abstracted, streamlined, colorful renderings of industrial subjects he found appealing, which encouraged his own examination of similar themes. Crawford spent the next decade traveling widely and studying art, meeting with early success in exhibiting his work.
Abstracted works comparable to the works in the LewAllen exhibition such as Third Avenue Elevated No 4 and of Architectural Abstraction can be found in the extensive collection of Crawford’s works at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In addition, Crawford’s works can be found in many other notable public collections including the Hirschorn Museum, Washington, DC; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Harvard University Museums, Cambridge, MA; and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC.