Joseph Raffael, painter and printmaker, was born in Brooklyn, New York. He studied at Cooper Union, New York City, 1953-54, and received a Summer Fellowship to the Yale-Norfolk School in 1954. He received his BFA degree from the Yale University School of Art, 1954-56, studying with Josef Albers.
His early 1960s Photo-Realist paintings depicted nature based on photographs of animals, ponds and foliage. Large-scale close-ups of animal faces, such as Lizard Head, and human faces like “African Lady,” were said to reflect a deep concern for nature. Raffael states his interest in “observing fertile and fantastic things that have within them the power to erupt, like Vesuvius.”
Raffael’s media changed from oil to watercolor, pastel and lithography as his interpretations of natural phenomena evolved from being photo-realistic to more impressionistic, as in Luxembourg Gardens: Memory, a watercolor. Raffael comments, “I like to think I paint feeling. I am interested in spirit as expressed in nature, the invisible made visible.”
Raffael received a Fulbright Fellowship to Florence and Rome in 1958-59, and a Tiffany Foundation Fellowship in 1960. He received First Prize at the Tokyo International Biennial, Japan in 1974, and a Purchase Prize, Concours d’Antiques, Oakland Museum, California, 1975.
His teaching experience includes the University of California, Davis, 1966; School of Visual Arts, New York City, 1967-69; University of California, Berkeley, Summer, 1969; and California State University at Sacramento, 1969-74.
Raffael has exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His work may be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Les Krantz, American Artists: An Illustrated Survey of Leading Contemporary Americans, 263
Image Courtesy of Preston McCoy