Raphael Soyer

artist artwork
Raphael Soyer and his twin brother, Moses, were born in Borisoglebsk, Tambov, a southern province of Russia in 1899. Their father, a Hebrew scholar, writer and teacher, raised his five children in an intellectual environment in which much emphasis was placed on academic and artistic pursuits. Due to Russian oppression, the Soyer family was forced to emigrate in 1912 to the United States, where they ultimately settled in the Bronx.

Raphael pursued his art education at the free schools of the Cooper Union where he met Chaim Gross, who became a lifelong friend from that time. He continued his studies at the National Academy of Design and, subsequently, at the Art Student's League. While there, he studied with Guy Pene du Bois and Boardman Robinson, taking up the gritty urban subjects of the Ashcan school. After his formal education ended, Soyer became associated with the Fourteenth Street School of painters that included Reginald Marsh, Isabel Bishop, Kenneth Hayes Miller, Peggy Bacon and, his teacher, Guy Pene du Bois. Soyer persistently investigated a number of themes - female nudes, portraits of friends and family, New York and, especially, its people - in his paintings, drawings, watercolors and prints. He was adamant in his belief in representational art and strongly opposed the dominant force of abstract art during late 1940's and early 1950's. Defending his position, he stated: "I choose to be a realist and a humanist in art."

Beginning in the early 1930's he showed regularly in the large annual and biennial American exhibitions of the Whitney Museum, the Carnegie Institute, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery, the National Academy of Design, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He had a series of one - man shows in New York galleries and also worked in the WPA Federal Arts Project in the 1930's.

Soyer's teaching career began at the John Reed Club, New York, in 1930 and included stints at the Art Students League, the New School for Social Research and the National Academy. His work is in numerous museums including the Museum of Modern Art; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; The New York Public Library, New York; Tel Aviv Museum, Israel; Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy and Los Angeles County Museum, California.