Ernest Crichlow first attained national distinction in the ’thirties and has come to be considered one of the important figures to have emerged from that generation of African American artists. He was born in Brooklyn on June 19, 1914. He was the second of nine children born to immigrants from Barbados, and the immigrant experience was often a subject in his art. After high school he studied commercial art and later studied fine art at New York University and the Arts Students League. He taught in New York schools as well as at the Brooklyn Museum art school, Shaw University in North Carolina, New York State University at New Paltz, and the Arts Students League.
Crichlow first exhibited in 1938 and 1939 in the artist-organized Harlem Community Center exhibition. He exhibited in 1941 at the McMillan Gallery in New York City. In 1942 he exhibited at the Downtown Gallery in New York City in what appears to have been the earliest gallery exhibition of Black artists, with Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lewis. In 1960 he had his first one man show at the ACA Gallery in New York City.
Other highlights of his long and distinguished career include a one man show as guest artist at the Afro-American Artists Museum in Philadelphia in 1969 and exhibitions at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, Newark Museum, New York World’s Fair and the Institute of Modern Art, Boston. He was one of 10 Black Artists from the National Conference of Artists honored at the White House during the Carter Administration. The artist is a former director of the Society for American Culture and a co-founder, along with Romare Bearden and Norman Lewis, of the Cinque Gallery, an opportunity gallery for young artists from disadvantaged background, which opened in 1969. He was a member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and held membership in a number of professional and civic organizations.
Crichlow illustrated a number of children’s books. A mural of his was installed at Boy’s High School in Brooklyn in 1976. The following year his work travelled to Lagos, Nigeria for FESTAC, the international Black Arts Festival.
His work is in numerous private and public collections all over the world. The list includes the Brooklyn Museum, the Hewitt Collection, the actors Morgan Freeman, Ossie Davis and Lena Horne.