COLUMBIA — Keith A. Crown Jr. made a name for himself in Missouri and elsewhere painting wildly colorful, abstract landscapes of wherever he happened to be.
“He made our landscape the center of his art,” Joan Stack, curator for the State Historical Society of Missouri said. “We were able to see Missouri through his unique vision.”
Mr. Crown’s artwork has been shown in more than 100 museums and galleries across the country.
Mr. Crown, a prolific watercolor artist, died Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010 in Columbia, leaving behind a legacy of influential art. He was 91.
He was born May 27, 1918, in Keokuk, Iowa, to parents Keith A. Crown Sr. and Cora Crown.
Mr. Crown’s career as an artist began at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in art. After college, he was an army regimental artist in World War II. While stationed in the South Pacific, he made drawings and maps of the terrain, sketches of landscapes and some portraits of soldiers. Many of these pictures were sent to "Yank Magazine" to illustrate stories about the war.
In 1946, Mr. Crown became a professor of drawing and painting at the Roski School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California. He taught there until 1984.
He married Patricia Crown in Los Angeles in 1964.
In the mid 1980s, Mr. Crown moved to Columbia, where he lived with his wife for the next 25 years. The Columbia art community embraced him; many stores and galleries have displayed his work.
“We were very lucky to have him in our community,” said Jennifer Perlow, owner of the Perlow-Stevens Art Gallery. “As his many honors show, he was a cornerstone of the watercolor world.”
In 2009, The National Watercolor Society presented Mr. Crown with its Lifetime Achievement Award, 50 years after he had been the society’s president.
In the last two years, multiple retrospective showings of his work took place in Columbia. In May 2008, the Perlow-Stevens Gallery held an exhibit that included some of his work from World War II. In 2009, the Adult Day Connection Center at MU had a show called “Artway” that showed many of Mr. Crown’s drawings and paintings. Also in 2009, the State Historical Society of Missouri had an art exhibit looking back at his life’s work.
Joan Stack worked with Mr. Crown’s wife, a former professor at the University of Missouri, Patricia Crown, to select representative works for the Historical Society show.
“It seemed to please him to see his art on display,” Stack said.
When Mr. Crown wasn’t drawing or painting, he also enjoyed reading, especially Tolstoy.
“He was a very well-read individual,” Patricia Crown said. “He was very knowledgeable of Russian literature.”
Mr. Crown also loved his cats. “In fact, his last drawing was of a cat,” Patricia Crown said.
He is survived by his wife; two daughters, Katherine Crown Webster, of Pasadena, Calif., and Patricia L. Crown, of Albuquerque, N.M.; a stepson, Paul S. Kennedy of Portland, Ore.; a sister, Patricia Fisher of Illinois; seven grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and the latest two in a long series of cats.
Mr. Crown’s first daughter, Haine Crown, died earlier.
The pre-eminent book about Crown is "Keith Crown Watercolors," by Sheldon Reich. A Web site about Crown and his work is at keithcrownpaintings.home.mchsi.com.
Online condolences may be posted for the family at parkerfuneralservice.com. Services will take place in California.