Raphael Soyer: Representations

Classifying himself as a representational artist, Raphael Soyer uses art to fulfill the most constant of human needs: depiction and expression of the dreams as well as the realities of ordinary human beings. In contrast to the abstractionists, Soyer describes his art as "constructive, life-preserving, aiming to transform the destructiveness of this {world}, to give us a better reality, a better life."

Included in "Raphael Soyer: Representations" are numerous portrayals of women, each of which reveals his understanding of and sensitivity to women and their everyday roles. He does not deify them nor does he stereotype them. Instead, he reveals his veneration by peering into their souls and recording nuances of the inner makeup through his representation of characteristic poses drawn from real-life scenes.

As in all of his works, his identification with suffering, expressed in objective terms, reflects his affinity for his subjects as well as for Russian realists such as Tolstoy. Having been raised in New York City, Soyer was very familiar with the common life and sought to depict not the fashionable denizens of culture, but rather shop girls, office girls and shoppers: women who had done battle with the harsher realities of life.

What is most notable about his representations of working women is his ability to convey their wholeness. His subjects are multi-dimensional individuals who often stoically endure life abuses. Interestingly, when a man and woman are portrayed together, the woman appears dominant and the rapport between the two seems markedly strained, with each involved in his or her separate world; alternatively, when women are shown together, a common bond appears to unite them and transcend objective differences.

Concerned chiefly with truthful presentations, Soyer avoids adornment and attempts to portray the scene as he sees it. His figures, whether they are friends or strangers, often lack beauty and yet exude a realness that transcend conventional classifications.

While his early works can be classified as primitivism, by 1929 his forms were deftly crafted and he was using light and shadow to produce sharp-edged, full-bodied subjects.