Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Leonard Baskin was committed to art at a young age. During his lifetime he studied briefly at NYU’s School of Architecture, Yale’s School of Fine Arts, and beginning in 1950 went overseas to study at Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, and Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1953. His art typically has no background and as a result is not concerned with creating a natural rendering of depth. He often created portraits of animals and humans with exaggerated features. Here, Baskin’s work features a crow gazing at a point above a viewer’s head with little affect. The crow stands on two legs so disproportionally large, it is hard to imagine it walking gracefully.
Crows are commonly associated with death. Baskin’s depiction of this crow serves as a reminder of death’s undeniable, but often abstract relationship to the living. Like much of his work, Crow seems to be a parable without a definitive message. Baskin had a life-long friendship with the poet Ted Hughes, famously married to writer Sylvia Plath, who dedicated her poem Sculptor to Baskin. Baskin illustrated Hughes’ collection of poems from 1970 entitled Crow. This literary work was inspired in part by Baskin’s numerous images of crows, such as this one. The two men motivated each other through their respective creations of literature and visual art.