Raphael Soyer

born Borisoglebsk, Russia 1899-died New York City 1987
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Raphael Soyer, © Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0111205
Borisoglebsk, Russia
New York, New York, United States

Painter and printmaker, a twin brother of artist Moses Soyer. His sympathetic and melancholic paintings expressed the aspirations and disappointments of ordinary people. He frequently painted himself and other artists, Homage to Thomas Eakins (1964–65) being one such work.

Joan Stahl American Artists in Photographic Portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection (Washington, D.C. and Mineola, New York: National Museum of American Art and Dover Publications, Inc., 1995)

Artist Biography

Raphael Soyer was a painter, draughtsman, and printmaker who believed that "if art is to survive, it must describe and express people, their lives and times. It must communicate." From an early age Soyer and his brothers Moses and Isaac were encouraged to draw by their father, a teacher of Hebrew literature and history. Forced to leave Russia in 1912, they immigrated to the United States and settled in Brooklyn. In the mid 1920s, having studied at Cooper Union, the National Academy of Design, and the Art Students League, Soyer painted scenes of life on New York's east side. His portrayals of derelicts, working people, and the unemployed around Union Square during the Depression reveal more of a poignant vision of the human condition than the art of social protest popular with many of his contemporaries. Throughout his life Soyer painted people—his friends, himself, studio models—with an unerring eye for intimacy and mood.

Virginia M. Mecklenburg Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1987)


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Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Sara Roby Foundation Collection
This exhibition presents some of the most treasured paintings and sculpture from SAAM’s permanent collection, including artworks by Will Barnet, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Edward Hopper, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jacob Lawrence, George Tooker, among others.