Joseph Raffael Biography

Joseph Raffael




Joseph Raffael was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1933. He showed an interest in art in early childhood and, after contracting spinal meningitis when he was ten years old, he spent much of his time restricted to his bed, drawing and studying the landscape and neighborhood from his window. At the request of his father, he was taken out of Catholic school and placed in the local public school— a fortuitous event, as at Midwood High School he was able to join the Art Club. Soon after, he began taking life drawing classes on Sundays at the Brooklyn Museum.

He attended Cooper Union from 1953-54 studying under Sidney Delevante, John Ferren, and Leo Manso. To support himself, he worked as a clerk at the Central Circulation Department at the New York Public Library. In the summer of 1954 he attended the Yale University-Norfolk School of Music and Art on a fellowship. With the encouragement of instructor Bernard Chaet, he went on to study at the Yale School of Fine Arts from 1954-56. There he studied under Josef Albers. Deciding to pursue a career rather than a Master’s degree, he worked as a freelance artist at the Jack Price Textile Studio and continued painting on weekends. He received a Fullbright Scholarship in 1958 and studied abroad in Florence and Rome until 1960, when he returned to the United States and began exhibiting. In 1969 he relocated from the East Coast to Marin County, California. By the early 1970s he had established the style and subject matter he would become known for, incorporating themes of water and flora in watercolor and lithographic form.

Raffael taught at the University of California at Davis (1966), University of California at Berkeley (1969), and California State College at Sacramento (1973). In 1973 he quit teaching to focus full time on producing work and exhibiting, though he accepted a post as a guest teacher at the Tamarind Institute in New Mexico in 1975, working in color lithography. He exhibited extensively throughout the United States and abroad and continued to paint until very near his death on July 12, 2021, in France.

1958: Fullbright Fellowship
1960: Louis Comfort Tiffany Fellowship
1974: First Prize, Tokyo International Biennial, Japan
1975: Purchase Prize, Concours d'Antiques, Oakland Museum, California

Allentown Art Museum; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Berkeley Art Museum; the Boca Raton Museum of Art; the Brauer Museum of Art; the Butler Institute of American Art; California College of Arts and Crafts; The Canton Museum of Art; the Cleveland Museum of Art; The Contemporary Museum; Crocker Art Museum; Delaware Art Museum; Denver Art Museum; Des Moines Art Center; Everson Museum of Art; Fort Worth Art Museum; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Honolulu Museum of Art;[8] MOCA Jacksonville; Joslyn Art Museum; Krannert Art Museum; Library of Congress; Long Beach Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Mint Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts (St. Petersburg, Florida); Museum of Outdoor Arts; the Oakland Museum of California; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Rahr West Art Museum; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Ballet; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the Speed Art Museum; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Toledo Museum of Art; Tulsa Performing Arts Center; University of Bridgeport; the University of Georgia; the University of Massachusetts Amherst; the University of New Mexico; Utah Museum of Fine Arts; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; the Walker Art Center; Washington County Museum of Fine Arts; the Weisman Art Museum; the Whitney Museum of American Art; as well as in numerous other important public and private collections.

More information on the artist's life and work can be found at