The artist, the atom, and the Bikini Atoll : Ralston Crawford paints Operation Crossroads



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This thesis explores Ralston Crawford’s canvases painted after witnessing the events of Operation Crossroads at the Bikini Atoll in 1946. Commissioned by Fortune, the artist provides the viewer with a unique and captivating view of the destruction wrought by atomic weaponry. Through a careful look at Crawford’s relationship with Fortune, Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery, and Crawford’s artistic contemporaries, this thesis positions the paintings within the art historical and cultural context of the mid-twentieth century and asserts their importance to the history of the Atomic Age. The thesis traces Crawford’s artistic development and his use of an Americanized Cubist language. In addition, the thesis looks closely at the rich cultural fabric of the postwar era and evaluates Crawford’s position in the American Art scene.