Raphael Soyer (1899-1987)
Sheet: 15 3/4 × 22 3/4 in. (40 × 57.8 cm) Image: 12 1/8 × 17 11/16 in. (30.8 × 44.9 cm)
Edition of 25
Printed by George C. Miller
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase
Rights and Reproductions Information
© artist or artist’s estate
The Mission, like Raphael Soyer’s related lithograph Bowery Nocturne, was executed in preparation for a painting. It was inspired by a visit to a mission in New York City that Soyer took with Walter Broe, a homeless man whom the artist employed as a model. In The Mission, five impoverished men share a table, but that is the extent of their social interaction. Each drinks his coffee and munches his bread in a self-imposed isolation that accentuates his individual face, gestures, and actions. Soyer was not unsympathetic to the human plight during the Great Depression, but his approach is devoid of propaganda or Social Realist commentary. Instead, his ability to draw our attention to a range of physical types and responses takes his images beyond the boundaries of the 1930s into a timeless world of human emotions.