Joseph Raphael (1869-1950) Tulip Field   27 x 31in

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Lot 39
Joseph Raphael
Tulip Field 27 x 31in

Sold for US$ 187,575 inc. premium
Joseph Raphael (1869-1950)
Tulip Field
signed 'JOS RAPHAEL' (lower right)
oil on canvas
27 x 31in


  • Provenance
    Sale, Butterfield & Butterfield, San Francisco and Los Angeles, American & California Paintings, March 17, 1982, lot 511.
    Private collection, Northern California.

    Joseph Raphael was one of California's native sons. He was born in San Francisco's South of Market district to a working-class immigrant family. After a stint working in the Sierra Foothills as a gold washer, he found his calling as an artist and enrolled at the California School of Design (now the San Francisco Art Institute) in his early twenties, where he studied under Arthur Mathews and Douglas Tilden.

    His formative decades abroad began with training at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1903 under Jean-Paul Laurens. Here, he fell in with several American artists abroad including the Society of Six painter, William Clapp. In this new decade, he began to split his time between Paris and the artist colony of Laren, Holland. His work of the 1900s was still influenced by the darker Tonalist palette developed under Mathews but also inspired by that of the Dutch Old Masters.

    The early 1910s are largely considered Raphael's watershed years, and the work of this decade is his most lauded. In 1911, Raphael married Johanna Jongkindt, a native Dutch pianist, and the following year, they settled in Uccle, a rural suburb of Brussels.

    According to William Gerdts, Raphael's methodology changed radically after his move to Uccle. 'He began to paint colorful outdoor scenes, sometimes including figures and often set in fields of flowers and vividly rendered gardens. Raphael applied paint in large dabs, creating decorative Post-Impressionist tapestries. Frequently he flattened space and simplified forms, utilizing structural concepts related to the art of Paul Cézanne. At the same time, his tendencies also involved pointillist brushwork inspired by the art of Georges Seurat. His approach related to the heightened colorism, simplification, and decorative patterning of Paul Gauguin and van Gogh; the latter was the Post-Impressionist with whom he shared the greatest affinity.' 1

    During the 1910s, Raphael became completely captivated by the brilliant swaths of color of Holland's commercial flower farms. He often visited Noordwijk, a coastal town famous for its bulb fields near his wife's native Dordrecht, with his young children in tow. Echoes of a young Van Gogh's work can be found in the structure of Raphael's paintings and drawings of this period. In the present work, we see an artist obsessed with the power and beauty of an individual flower multiplied into a landscape. Vibrant intense reds, scattered pinks and purple hued shadows form the tulip flowers. These hot colors are interspersed with cool creamy greenish half curved dabs to give the red hues even greater vibrance and to hint at the stalks and leaves. Only in the foreground does Raphael gratify the observer with more defined individual flowers.

    Tulip Field shows the influence of Cézanne on Raphael's works in the flattened space and simplified forms of the flowers. The painting also illustrates the artist's stippling and pointillist inspirations. Brushstrokes with similar tones get smaller and tighter as the eye travels deeper into the painting. A pink, then green, then yellow horizontal line breaks the field of red at the boundary of the top third of the painting. A subsequent line of pointillist red dots just above this false horizon indicates another field of flowers beyond even before the eye reaches the distant town center. A steeple and other peaks and roofs slip through the trees in the distance. Raphael uses a very similar range of creamy greens in the trees as what he uses for the stalks and leaves of the tulips. The sky is overcast blue with a patch of whiter light depicted with a creamy tone center right on the horizon. Shifts in impasto rather than changes in tone hint at the source of light and the artist uses the same color at the top boundary of the flower field. It is Raphael's distinct blend of artistic influences in Tulip Field that gives us the artist's view of this magnificent post-Impressionist tapestry. It is just as striking today more than a century after it was painted.

    1 1 W.H. Gerdts, Joseph Raphael (1869-1950): An Artistic Journey, New York, Spanierman Gallery, 2003, p. 20.
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