Raphael Soyer (1899-1987)
Sheet (Irregular): 15 3/16 × 21 3/8 in. (38.6 × 54.3 cm) Image: 12 3/4 × 17 7/8 in. (32.4 × 45.4 cm)
Edition of 25
Printed by George C. Miller
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from The Lauder Foundation, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Fund
Rights and Reproductions Information
© artist or artist’s estate
Raphael Soyer considered Bowery Nocturne, along with the companion image The Mission, among his most important lithographs (both were preparatory studies for paintings). The work pictures several men gathered at a restaurant. The lettering on the background sign derives from a photograph that artist Ben Shahn took and gave to Soyer, but no unified narrative is implied. While Soyer is often categorized among the Social Realists of the 1920s and 1930s, here he is interested in the men as individuals, foregoing a direct commentary on the social concerns of the Great Depression. The denizens of Bowery Nocturne may be ordinary and nameless, but they are distinguished from one another by their clothing, hats, physiognomies, actions, and expressions. Soyer’s careful differentiation of each man encourages the viewer’s attentiveness and imagination.