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Raphael Soyer papers, 1933-1989

Soyer, Raphael, 1899-1987

Lithographer, Painter

The papers of Raphael Soyer in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2009. The bulk of the papers have been scanned and total 6,074 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 3.9 Linear feet

Summary: The papers of realist painter Raphael Soyer date from 1933 to 1989 and measure 3.9 linear feet. They document Soyer's career as a painter, printmaker, and writer. Found within the papers are scattered biographical materials, including several transcripts of interviews with Soyer; extensive personal and professional correspondence; writings and notes by Soyer and others; scattered legal and financial records; exhibition materials, clippings and other printed material; and photographs of Soyer in his studio, with artists and friends, and at art events. Also found are one sketch and a facsimile of Soyer's 1968 sketchbook produced by Forum Gallery.
Biographical materials include award certificates, including a 1975 certificate from the National Academy of Design, lists of artwork by Soyer, and several transcripts of interviews with Raphael Soyer in which he discusses topics such as his career as an artist, artists in New York City, and the inspiration for his artwork.
Personal and professional correspondence is with numerous artists, writers, art historians, curators, gallery owners, arts organizations, museums, and universities. Correspondents include Lambro Ahlas, Rudolf Baranik, George Biddle, John Bratby, David Burliuk, Peter De Francia, Lloyd Goodrich, Joseph Hirsch, Joseph Hirshhorn, Edward Hopper, Joe Lasker, Henry Varnum Poor, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and many others. Additional correspondence is addressed to Reality magazine, for which Soyer was an editor.
Writings and notes by Soyer include several drafts and notes for his four published books A Painter's Pilgrimage (1962), Homage to Thomas Eakins (1966), Self-Revealment: a Memoir (1969), and Diary of an Artist (1977). Also by Soyer are draft essays, lectures, and articles - many about social realism. Writings by others include essays and articles by artists and art scholars sent to Soyer for review.
Scattered legal and financial records include bank statements, receipts, leases, and documents related to the publishing of his books. Printed material consists of exhibition catalogs and announcements, clippings, and other published items.
Photographs depict Soyer in his studio, with other artists and friends such as Chaim Gross, Edward Hopper, and Jose De Creeft, and at art events, and include a few photographs of his artwork. Also found are one pencil sketch and a facsimile of Soyer's 1968 sketchbook produced by Forum Gallery.

Biographical/Historical Note

Raphael Soyer (1899-1987) and his twin brother Moses (1899-1974) were born on December 25, 1899, in the Russian town Borisoglebsk. Their father Abraham was a scholar and Hebrew teacher who encouraged all of his children to sketch and paint. After the family was deported from Russia, they settled in the Bronx, New York, in 1912. Raphael and Moses briefly attended school, but at 16 they began working various jobs to help support their family. They also began taking free art classes at Cooper Union and later Raphael attended the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League where he studied with Guy Pene du Bois. He began to show his paintings in 1926 and in 1929 gallery owner Charles Daniel gave him his first one man show. Soyer became one of the leading realist painters and printmakers, often depicting Depression-era transients, Manhattan streetscapes, shoppers, and women at work. He also painted and sketched numerous self-portraits and portraits of fellow artists and cultural figures, many of whom were also his friends, including Allen Ginsberg, Chaim Gross, Edward Hopper, and Arshile Gorky.

Provenance

Raphael Soyer donated portions of the collection between 1961 and 1980. He also loaned materials for microfilming in 1968. His widow, Rebecca, and his grandson, Joseph Leiber, on behalf of the entire Soyer family, donated additional materials in 1991 and 1993.

Related Materials

Language Note

English and Russian English; Russian

Funding

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.