The leftwing painter Raphael Soyer, the best-known of three artist brothers (including his twin Moses and Isaac), died at 87 on this date in 1987. Soyer was admired for his realistic street scenes and his intimate paintings of people in face-to-face circumstances or states of introspection during the Great Depression. He was also known for his portraits of writers and artists. Soyer was very resistant to the rise of abstraction after World War II, stating: “I choose to be a realist and a humanist in art,” and becoming “America’s leading advocate of realism,” wrote Douglas C. McGill in a New York Times obituary,” not only in the uninterrupted stream of paintings, watercolors, lithographs, book illustrations and other works that flowed from his studio… but also in occasional public talks and writings.” In 1967, the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibited a retrospective of his work. To see a short video showing a series of Soyer’s paintings of women, look below.
“‘This arbitrary exploitation of a single phase of painting encourages a contempt for the taste and intelligence of the American public,’ Mr. Soyer wrote, criticizing abstraction in a letter he signed with 45 other artists in the arts magazine Reality in 1953. ‘We believe that texture and accident, color, design and all the other elements of painting are only the means to a larger end, which is the depiction of man and his world.'”