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Keith Crown

 (1918 - 2010)
Keith Allen Jr Crown was active/lived in California, Missouri, Iowa.  Keith Crown is known for mod sea-landscape painting, abstraction, teaching.

Keith Crown

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Keith Crown
Born in Keokuk, Iowa, Keith Crown became a leading abstractionist in Southern California following World War II. His primary medium was watercolor, and he was on the board of directors of the California Water Color Society, and in 1959 served as President.

He was raised in Gary, Indiana, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1936 to 1940, earning a BFA.. He was in the Army during World War II and served as a field artist and correspondant in the Pacific Theatre. After the war, he returned to Chicago for more art education, and then moved to California. From 1946 to 1983, he was Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Living in Manhattan Beach, he painted colorful abstractions of coastal views, and in the early 1960s, his style became radically abstract, often in the medium of transparent watercolor.

After his retirement, he moved to Columbia, Missouri. From 1956, he was an active participant in the Taos, New Mexico art scene. He built an adobe house on 7 acres in Talpa, New Mexico, a town near Taos, where he spent his summers from 1972 until 1998.

In 1986, the University of Missouri Press published a monograph, "Keith Crown Watercolors", by Sheldon Reich.

Gordon McClelland and Jay Last, "California Watercolors"
Frank Stack, Professor Emeritus of Art, University of Missouri. He is a neighbor and colleague of the artist.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Keith Crown
Keith Allen Crown was born in Keokuk, IA on May 27, 1918.  Crown studied at AIC in 1936-40.  Following service in the Army during WWII, he moved to southern California and settled in Manhattan Beach.  For 37 years he taught painting at USC.  Upon retirement, he moved to Columbia, MO and remained there until his demise on Jan. 31, 2010. 

Exh:  Calif. WC Society, 1949-53.

Edan Hughes, author of the book "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Social Security Death Index (1940-2002).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Fine Arts Collection, Luther College
Keith Crown was born May 27, 1918, in Keokuk, Iowa. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1936-1940, receiving his BFA in 1946. During World War II, he was an Infantry Artist and Staff Sergeant as well as a field correspondent for Yank magazine. He was awarded a Bronze Star during the War. Crown started out at Camp Roberts in California, was transferred to a camp in Washington, and then deployed to Hawaii. His war service was primarily spent in the Pacific theater serving in the 161st Regiment, 25th Division. He married Helen Elaine Talle in 1945. He was later married to Patricia Dahlman in 1966.

Between 1940 and 1941, Crown was an instructor of art at Luther College before being inducted into the Army.  It was during this time that he created the Messiah Poster in the Fine Arts Collection. Crown later recalled that he created 25 silkscreen posters to advertise the event in 1940. Crown donated the poster to the College in 1989, immediately before the 50th anniversary of the Messiah performances.

In 1946, Crown joined the faculty at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles as an instructor of art. In 1947, he had his first one-man show at the M.H. deYoung Museum in San Francisco.  He became interested in pre-Columbian art after a trip to Mexico in 1951, acquiring a fine collection.  He was awarded a sabbatical leave in 1956 when he visited Taos, New Mexico, for four months.  A second sabbatical leave occurred in 1964 when he spent time as a Visiting Professor of Painting at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Through an act of vandalism in 1965, Crown lost over one-hundred paintings. He continued working, becoming a Visiting Professor of Painting at the University of Calgary at Alberta, Canada, during the summer months. The pattern of doing visiting professorships during summers continued with positions at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Portland State University, the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri, Columbia. Crown also gave numerous lecture-demonstrations and workshops and was an artist in residence at several colleges including Bethany College in Lindsborg, KS and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Crown spent considerable time painting and writing while working in Taos, New Mexico.  In 1975, he built a house in Talpa, near Taos. Although he continued traveling widely, he stayed in Taos part of each year. Retiring in 1983 from USC as a Professor Emeritus of Art, he moved to Columbia, Missouri, where he continued to produce art. A retrospective exhibit of his art was held to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2008 at the Perlow-Stevens Gallery at the University of Missouri.

The list of one-man exhibitions and invitational exhibitions in which Crown showed his art is extensive. His works are in many public and private collections. He won innumerable prizes and awards including purchase awards.  He was president of the National Watercolor Society in 1959 and a member of the founding board of directors of the Los Angeles chapter of Artist's Equity.  He served on many juries for art exhibitions and his paintings illustrate numerous books. In 2003, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Watercolor Society USA Honor Society.

Crown preferred to paint his watercolors outdoors rather than in a studio. Although he experimented with acrylics, oils and other mediums, he concentrated on watercolors throughout his life. He especially enjoyed painting around Taos, New Mexico, in desert terrain. Crown used various means to apply his paint which is often colorful, including brushes, razor knives, sponges, a water can, a spray bottle, string and nails. He also used an air-brush which he described as providing a "distinguished character" to his paintings. He typically sketched before beginning a painting. Former students have commented that he was known for his productivity, starting and finishing a painting the same day. He has signed different sides of his paintings so they could be hung in different ways.

During Crown's marriage to Helen Elaine Talle, they collected pre-Columbian art from Mexico. It was given to Luther College in her memory by her daughters, Dr. Patricia Crown, Katherine Crown Webster, and Haine Talle Crown in 1988.


"December 7, 1941: America, Winneshiek Go to War!" Decorah Public Opinion, 779 (December 3, 1991);

Reich, Sheldon. Keith Crown: Watercolors. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1986;

"Keith Crown, A Watercolorist." The Missourian. May 23, 2008.

Who's Who in American Art. New York: R.R. Bowker, various dates;

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About  Keith Crown

Born:  1918 - Keokuk, Iowa
Died:   2010 - Columbia, Missouri
Known for:  mod sea-landscape painting, abstraction, teaching