James Augustus Crane


was a painter who had a lifelong interest in the sea and the ship disasters that grew out of his work as a fisherman in Bath, Maine, as well as his life near Ellsworth,Maine. Beginning about 1962, when he was eightyfive years old, Crane painted a small number of ship portraits, including several versions of the
and New England landscapes and seascapes. Like other self-taught artists, Crane often showed multiple perspectives of an object simultaneously. In one of his paintings of the
Crane depicts the side and top views of the ship. There is also no single light source inthe work. For materials, Crane used oil and house paint on plywood, oilcloth, bed sheets, and he occasionally used paper collages.Born in Winter Harbor, Maine, Crane enjoyed a long life. When he was fourteen, his father, a fisherman, was lost at sea during a storm. The traumatic event ledCrane to abandon any idea of becoming a fisherman, and he pursued work as a mechanic. The circumstances of his father’s death may have influenced the subjectmatter of his paintings, although he claimed that he painted to raise money to complete and test a plane he was building, his lifelong dream.In 1909 Crane had a vision of an angel that “showed him an airship with oscillating wings, demonstrated it for him, and departed.” When Crane was hired tosupervise a salvage yard in 1962, he found many of the materials he needed to build his airship, based on the vision. He completed the
Eagle Airship
and placed it inhis front yard with his paintings.
See also
Environments, Folk; Maritime Folk Art;

Painting, American Folk; Sculpture, Folk
Bishop, Robert.
Folk Painters of America.
New York, 1979.Hemphill, Herbert W.Jr., and Julia Weissman.
Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists.
New York, 1974.Johnson, Jay, and William C.Ketchum.
American Folk Art of the Twentieth Century.
New York, 1983.Kogan, Lee. “New Museum Encyclopedia Shatters Myths.”
The Clarion
(winter 1990): 55–56