One of the best loved of the American spirituals is here interpreted by an artist whose birthright is an authentic understanding of the spirituals. He gives us that understanding in terms of an art having all the appeal of the Negro’s conception of religion in its narrative quality, its close emotional identification with religious ideas and events, and its simplicity of feeling.
The thirty-nine black-and-white drawings which compose the drama are not “illustrations” in the usual sense of visual elaborations of a text, but are rather a translation from musical rhythm into visual rhythm. Where the sung spiritual creates cumulative dramatic tension by repeated variations of a musical phrase, the artist lays increasing stress on the central idea of a pictorial sequence, each drawing dependent for its full power on its relation to those preceding and following it. Human figures have been used as symbols depicting the various shadings and accents of the great story as it is suggested by the words and music of the spiritual. The main motif is that of Christ; the secondary motifs or accompaniments are the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John, with the chorus in the background. Throughout, the spirit is reverent, and there is, as the changing text of the spiritual demands, a subtle and inevitable change from realism to symbolism.
Artistically the drawings are simple, with an unusual vitality and strength characteristic of this artist’s skillful brushwork, which is bold or delicate as the subject matter demands. Crite’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout the country and is represented in many collections.