Francis Criss was most known for his portrayals of New York City’s industrial lifestyle and his incorporation of bold geometric forms and use of monotone colors. Throughout his lifetime, Criss experimented with many different types of styles from precisionism to synchromism and surrealism. Although he tried to avoid having his work classified, he is described and his work is often compared to other precisionist artists such as Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) and Ralston Crawford (1906-1978). Precisionists were known for painting subjects such as urban and industrial scenes to symbolize a growing nation. Additionally, Criss was strongly influenced by surrealism during his early career. He adopted similar motifs in his work that dealt with the subconscious. In several of his paintings, he paints clocks without faces or hands.
During the 1950s, after having worked a decade with commercial art in order to support his family, Criss retreated back to painting. He experimented with pointillism and mixed cubism and realism, and later, made collages from old photographs. Again, he returned to portrait paintings teaching at Brooklyn Museum and the School of Visual Arts. However, with abstract expressionism on the rise, his paintings didn’t receive the same success that they had in the thirties.
Criss’ works have been on view in a number of esteemed institutions including The Whitney Museum, The National Gallery of American Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The National Portrait Gallery and many more. His works have been featured in catalogs, documentaries, and numerous publications.