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Edsel Cramer, 1924 – 2010

Houston artist Edsel Cramer died on August 31, 2010. He was 86 years old. Born on May 6, 1924 at the old Jeff Davis Hospital in Houston, Cramer was known for his classically inspired portraits and landscapes. He painted many prominent Houstonians during his career, ranging from Adelaide de Menil (daughter of John and Dominique), to George W. Bush when the future president was a boy, to Rice University president Malcolm Gillis. His 1973 portrait of Barbara Jordan is in the collection at the Texas Capitol. Educated at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students’ League in New York City, Cramer struggled with mid-century expectations of him as an African-American artist. In a 2006 interview he said "What [the instructors] wanted me to do was some primitive African stuff because I’m black. And my painting was more classical than everybody else." Memorial services have not yet been announced.

also by Rainey Knudson

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6 Responses

  1. Leslie

    Thank you for publishing this very sad news about a rare, delightful, talented man. Edsel and I were quite close for a number of years – four decades ago. I knew this was coming but no one notified me. Thank goodness for your site. Edsel would be appalled to know that people have to pay to leave a remembrance – elsewhere.

    He was a unique man in every way – talented, sensitive, refined, smart, and most importantly, true to himself. I’m fortunate to have two portraits he painted of me and numerous photographs from our time together. In fact, he taught me about photography as well as art and he taught me about life. Sometimes he seemed so puzzled by the latter and about some of the people who entered his sphere. Such a remarkable man.

    1. Cedric Long

      Are you in contact with Edsel’s son, Hanif?
      I’m working with him on some things and he’s working on a project to commemorate his father.
      Contact me if it works for you.

  2. Todd Cromwell

    Leslie, My late wife, the former Bernice Selber or Bryan for a time, was a good friend of Edsel’s before we were married in 1960. She was an actress in the early days of the Alley Theatre, and Edsel made several pencil sketches of her and her dachshund which I treasure. I only had the pleasure of meeting him a few times, when I was studying woodcarving with Joseph Putz. I don’t know if you date back to that time in the 50’s and would have known her before we moved to New Orleans in the 60’s and then Seatle since 1975. – Todd

  3. kent houck

    Would this man have been or lived in New york for a bit? Know a Nancy Taylor, friends of Tommy Tune. Wondering I just found a card to her from, if I am reading it right a name of Quiger. There is a cartoon sketch on the card said to be by Edsel while holding paintbrushes in one hand and drawing the sketch with the other as the water bounced and the wind was trying to blow the card out of his hand. I am trying to piece together parts of Nancy’s life as she has passed around three weeks ago Jan- 2015, I am dating her niece and would love to surprise her with some sort of story of Nancy’s doings. As I have seen Nancy did a whole whole lot in this world and I would love to be able to put some times dates stories together for her niece Meredith and her children, and Meredith’s sister Allison. Any comments or responses would be much app. to my email, fraggleaustin@gmail.com Thank you kindly!

  4. leni ashton

    i had the honor of knowing edsel cramer 1950-1955 during which time
    he painted an oil of me on canvas. he also sketched a drawing for my mother
    and I. He was such a wonderful gentleman. His artistic talent was quite
    beyond excellent.

  5. Geneva Bolton Johnson

    In 1952-55,I lived several houses down the street from Edsel in the third ward.We were friends and spent a lot of time talking about ” life” .I admired his painting and asked him many times to paint my portrait. He would joke and tell me he would rather do a sculpter since my profile reminded him of the Sphinx.One day he asked to borrow five dollars to go down town.I gave him the money and said he had to paint my portrait.The next day he took a piece of canvas that had already had a painting on it.I was amazed to see him proceed to paint my portrait right over the old painting without. Covering up the old painting. He said he wasn’t going to waste a new canvas to paint me. we remained friends until I left Houston to go to graduate school.I came to Houston in 1951 to work as a program director at the Blue Triangle YWCA..The portrait hangs over my mantle, on of my most prized possessions.

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