William Raphael

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William Raphael

1833 - 1914
OSA PPCM RCA SCA

Though he is best known for his portraits and lively Canadian genre scenes, William Raphael also responded to the Canadian landscape and captured its splendor and its vast nature. Raphael employed light to establish figures in space, which he derived from German Romantic painting of the early nineteenth century. His work strove to show the romantic elements of Canadian life as viewed through the eyes of an immigrant.
Raphael was born in Nakel, Prussia, of Orthodox Jewish background. He studied art at the Berlin School of Fine Art under Johann Eduard Wolff and Karl Begas. In 1956, he first moved to New York and found employment as a portraitist before immigrating to Montreal in 1957 where he settled. He spent the remainder of his life teaching at various schools and colleges, and in 1881 formed his own successful school. He also found work through commissions for portraits and religious scenes for Catholic orders. In 1880, Raphael was accepted into the Ontario Society of Artists and then became a founding member of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts.
Raphael’s painting entitled Behind Bonsecours Market, Montreal was painted nine years after he arrived in Montreal and was acquired by the National Gallery of Canada in 1957. It is a complex work that uses studied light effects to create a luminous quality.