Roger Lynn Crossgrove, Professor of Art Emeritus, painter and photographer, passed away peacefully at the age of 95, on December 14, 2016, in Storrs, CT.
Roger was predeceased by his brother Dale, sister Ardyce, his former wife, Wynona, and a son, Cory. He is survived by his children; Chris and his wife Shoshana Levinson, Cathy, Carolyn, Camilla and Carl, and his grandchildren; Jeremy Crossgrove, Cathy Ross and her husband Curtis.
Born in Farnam, Nebraska in 1921, Roger was raised on the family farm where his father ran a farming cooperative. Roger’s mother, a self-taught artist, encouraged his interest in art. He served in the US Army as a Staff Sergeant, 73rd Field Hospital, in the Philippines from 1942 to 1946, receiving several medals including the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star. Roger received his BFA from the University of Nebraska in 1949 and his MFA in 1951 from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He lived and painted in Mexico for two years, first in 1950 on the GI Bill and again in 1965. Roger married Wynona McDermand in 1948.
Moving to Brooklyn NY after college, he taught in the Pratt Department of Graphic Art and Illustration between 1950 and 1968 when he was recruited for the position of Department Head at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. He taught there until his retirement in 1988. Roger exhibited widely in group shows as well as solo shows; in Mexico City, Artworks Gallery in Hartford, The William Benton Museum, The Babbidge Library and The Slater Memorial Museum. He received numerous awards including an Emily Lowe award, a National Arts Club Gold Medal, and others from the American Watercolor Society, Audubon Artists, and the Butler Institute of American Art. He was a member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, Connecticut Watercolor Society, and a founding member of Artworks Gallery. He is listed in Who’s Who in the East and Who’s Who in American Art. He spent several summers in residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Roger produced watercolor monotypes for more than fifty years. He participated in traveling exhibits of monotypes, and his work is referenced in anthologies of the technique. In 1976 Roger began to explore photography. Roger explored time exposure and penlight drawing, referencing classic sculpture, Muybridge motion studies and abstraction in his figurative work. Roger’s instruction had a lasting influence on his students. He is beloved as teacher, mentor and friend by countless former students including Tomie DePaola, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joseph A. Smith, and Michael Maslin.
Described as patient, supportive, firm, friendly, generous and cheerful, he is remembered for well-rounded foundational lessons, in a wide variety of idioms, as crucial preparation for fine art or illustration. Students recall his thoughtful and creative construction of still-life and lighting arrangements for studio classes. Roger was also an enthusiastic instructor of children’s book illustration. He was a founding member of the American Book Collectors and of the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair at UConn which ran for 24 years, and was a longtime supporter of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, which received his extensive collection of children’s books.
Roger was honored by Connecticut’s Poet Laureate, Marilyn Nelson, with her poem entitled “The Good Man” in 2002. He was the recipient of the UConn School of Fine Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
Roger Crossgrove had an even and patient temperament and a surprisingly stealthy sense of humor. He was constantly active in arranging and mounting art exhibits, attending art events, and visiting NYC galleries. He was an adventurer in art, with a fantastic sense of color, vibrant gesture, unusual subject matter and combinations of media. He retained his intellectual curiosity, acute esthetic awareness and appreciation of color and beauty to his final days. Roger’s papers reside at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art. His photographic materials were donated to the Dodd Center at the University of Connecticut Library.
The family wishes to thank the staff of the Mansfield Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation for their caring professionalism during Roger’s final months. The family also wishes to thank caregiving staff from A Caring Hand, especially Kofi Serebour, for his years of caring attention to Roger in his home. A celebration of Roger’s life will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in Roger’s memory may be made to the Uconn Libraries Exhibits Program (Fund #31122, c/o UConn Foundation, 2390 Alumni Drive U-3206, Storrs, CT 06269-3206), supporting the Roger Crossgrove Exhibit Series at the Homer Babbidge Library. Donations may also be made to Compassion And Choices: www.compassionandchoices.org/donate/