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Kathleen (Putting Out a Cigarette)

Soyer, Raphael

Kathleen (Putting Out a Cigarette)

oil on canvas

2005 Anonymous Gift

Regarded as America's leading advocate of realism, Raphael Soyer devoted his long, productive life to "painting people . . . in their natural context - who belong to their time." Born in rural Russia and raised in New York City, Soyer was familiar with the daily lives of ordinary people. In his art, he did not focus on the fashionable denizens of culture, but preferred to depict women who dealt with daily hardships as they eked out a living.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s Soyer's portrayals of life in New York's Fourteenth Street and Lower East Side secured his reputation as a major Social Realist. Unlike his contemporaries, his paintings did not judge, satirize or instruct. His restrained use of color and absense of melodrama allowed the subject's emotional state to dominate. New York City's "coldness and hardness and dissociation" compelled Soyer "to dig, to scrape, to unearth the beauty" of his subjects.

In "Kathleen (Putting Out a Cigarette)" Soyer emphasized the mood of his subject by compressing her figure into the stark compositional space. He used dark, somber colors to indicate the dreary environment in which the woman existed.