Born in New York, Joseph Raffael received his B.F.A. from the Yale School of Fine Arts. He studied with the celebrated German émigré artist Josef Albers who, though a significant abstract artist, counseled his students to follow their own vision. Profiting from Albers's color theories, which influenced Raffael's handling of radiant color, the younger artist pursued realist styles. He adopted the traditional themes of still life and landscape—often including wildlife in his scenes of nature. Flowers in their natural state have attracted him, particularly water lilies. In the later 1960s, his work became associated with Photorealism, an approach to realism that used the photograph in varying ways as a basis for the work of art. Raffael works with color slides projected in his darkened studio immediately next to his canvas or watercolor paper. Although using a photographic model for the work of art, Raffael elaborates upon it with exaggerations and simplifications of color and form. His fondness for the movies is seen in the large scale of his work and the exploded close-ups and croppings of subject that characterize his presentation of motifs. Although he works with acrylic paints, Raffael is also known for his monumental watercolor paintings.
Kuspit, Donald and Amei Wallach. Reflections of Nature: Paintings by Joseph Raffael. New York: Abbeville Press, 1998.
Joseph Raffael, Lizard, 1971, oil on canvas, 85 x 85 inches. Collection of Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Gift of Susan R. Abrams. 1987.02 © Joseph Raffael. Courtesy Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York.
Joseph Raffael. Photograph courtesy of the artist.