Organizations* : CAA
The intended eloquence of a Donald Crowley painting is not in its re-creation of history, but in its presentation of the living. A consummate realist, Crowley can paint the beauty and dignity of an Apache maiden, the spiritual countenance of an Indian dancer, or a quiet still life.
Crowley was raised in Southern California, where he showed art talent from childhood. As a young man, he was close friends with and painting companion to Mervin Corning, who became an accomplished watercolorist. Crowley was heavily influenced and inspired by Frederic Remington’s book Done in the Open, and a book on English painters, edited by Rockwell Kent entitled World Famous Paintings.
He spent four years in the U.S. Navy and Merchant Marines, and then used the G.I. Bill to finance his way through the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. He married Betty Jayne, a fellow art student, and the couple headed East where he spent over twenty years in New York as a commercial illustrator with the Charles E. Cooper Studio. Crowley illustrated for Reader’s Digest, Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries, and children’s books. He said that, in those days, opportunities for gallery representation for artists was minimal, but having observed his friend James Bama have a successful one-man show in Wyoming, and tired of commercial art, he and his family moved West in the late 1960s. In 1974, they moved to Tucson where Sam Wisnom, former schoolmate, had arranged for Crowley to show his work.
Moving from commercial to fine art had a loosening effect on his style, and his work got more colorful. Through this transition, Crowley has been able to free his talents and delve into the engrossing world of the Apache and Paiute Indians. After moving to the West, Crowley met the Martineaus, a Paiute family on the San Carlos Reservation, and for years has used them regularly as models. He is fascinated by the inner dignity the Indians have when they are dressed in their finery, and his paintings are intended to typify the ideals of these Southwestern societies and impart to the viewer the serenity of these people and their surroundings.
In 1994, Crowley was elected to membership in the Cowboy Artists of America, and considers that as his finest moment and his greatest challenge. In 1998, the Friends of Western Art named him Artist of the Year. Crowley is a resident of Tucson, Arizona.