Ray Crane is a graduate of the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and has made his career as an artist, both on an independent basis and as artist in residence for many years at Boston’s Museum of Science/ Charles Hayden Planetarium.
For more than 30 years as a professional artist, Ray’s work has evolved through several distinct phases, all with a focus on love of history and the rich maritime, aviation and architectural heritage of New England. Following an early period doing astronomical art (inspired by his work at the Museum), he turned to a subject that had been a passion since childhood – aviation. His interests were primarily historical such as the golden age of air transportation and air travel in America. In the tradition of marine artists who depict the great age of sail, he set out to recapture the early days of a new form of transportation that changed America forever and to pay tribute to the local aircraft and airlines that were among the early pioneers. One of these paintings, Flying Boat is in the collection of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
In recent years while living on Cape Ann, MA, Ray’s paintings are inspired by the scenes and history of the New England coast, focusing on the schooners and other vessels that figured prominently in New England maritime history. Living on the coast provides endless opportunities to observe vintage sailing vessels first hand and visit the harbors and coves that have inspired American artists for more than 200 years. Exploring the locations witnessed by Heade, Lane, Salmon, and Homer provides a connection with the past and inspiration to create new work that shows their world as it is today.
Over time, Crane has explored the coast from Boston to downeast Maine, under every conceivable condition, and from every perspective, both from land and (most often), from out on the water. He has explored the rugged coast of Maine north to Acadia, including many of the accessible islands along the way, and most recently has expanded his horizons southward to New York Harbor and the Hudson River Valley with its unique visual beauty and rich maritime history. When not painting or seeking new locations, he spends time searching through the archives of museums and libraries for information that will result in new works with a unique historical perspective.
For Crane, maritime painting is as much a discipline as it is art, and he enjoys the research and study as much as painting the picture. Over the years, he has studied weather, astronomy, history, ship design and construction, and other specialties in order to produce paintings that are not only visually compelling, but also competent – reflecting knowledge of the subject and not just the paint. Using sunrises and sunsets, moonlight, approaching storms and other effects to evoke a mood, he hopes to instill a greater appreciation for the past and show the enduring influence of the past in our life today.
Ray’s work is exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the U.S., and is in many private collections nationwide. It has also appeared in books, magazines and calendars. He is a member of the Rockport Art Association and North Shore Arts Association on Cape Ann, where he has exhibited regularly, held solo shows, and won awards for his maritime art, including Excellence in Any Medium (RAA 2012), Charles Gruppe Award for Excellence in Marine Art (NSAA 2004), Marine Art Award (MAA 2005), and People’s Choice Awards (NSAA 2011 and 2008).