Artwork by Spencer Douglass Crockwell
Spencer Douglass Crockwell was born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 29, 1904. His family was a comfortable middle-class household: his mother the daughter of an attorney and his father a mining engineer. At the age of three, his family relocated to Saint Louis, Missouri, where he attended elementary school and then Washington University, studying business. As an undergraduate, Crockwell also took courses at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, which ultimately prompted him to change his studies.
Crockwell graduated with a business degree from Washington University in 1926; but he continued his studies at the School of Fine Arts until 1929. The next year, he relocated to Chicago to continue his studies at the American Academy of Art. Receiving a Traveling Fellowship, Crockwell studied in Europe in 1930 and 1931. He moved to Glens Falls, New York, in 1932, marrying Margaret Braman and raising a family in the town he considered his home for life.
During the Depression years, Spencer Crockwell created three federally commissioned murals for the Works Progress Administration (WPA),.In 1937 he completed an oil on canvas mural entitled “Vermont Industries” for the White River Junction post office in Vermont. Crockwell painted another oil on canvas mural in 1938 entitled “Endicott: Excavating for the Ideal Factory” for the Endicott, New York post office. His “Signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek” was completed in 1944 for the post office in Macon, Mississippi.
The Finch Pruyn & Company, the leading Glens Falls company in his home town, is the site for his 1934 “Paper Workers” mural. That same year Crockwell began experimenting in film making, initially creating low-cost flip-card animation films ween through a mutoscope. In the years 1936-1937, he created surrealistic films with his collaborator sculptor Dave Smith.
The United States Brewers Foundation hired Crockwell in 1947 for its “Beer Belongs” campaign, whose goal was to make beer a part of a wholesome American lifestyle. The campaign ran for ten years producing 136 advertisements by various artists, roughly half which were done by Spencer Crockwell. Like Norman Rockwell during this period, Crockwell illustrated many cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post, sometimes just signing his work as Douglass.
Spencer Crockwell was a founding trustee and the first director of The Hyde Collection, a respected art museum in Glens Falls, New York.. He received many awards, including the 1947 Art Directors Club of New York Gold Medal for best poster and the 1957 Los Angeles Art Directors Award for best painting. His paintings can be seen in many museums, public buildings, and in the permanent collection of The Smithsonian.