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Raphael Soyer

The Mission

1933

Not on view

Artist

Raphael Soyer (1899-1987)

Title

The Mission

Date

1933

Medium

Lithograph

Dimensions

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 information

Edition of 25

Publication information

Printed by George C. Miller

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase

Accession number

36.59

Object Label

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.

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