From the South of France to the West Side of Manhattan, With Love: Joseph Raffael’s Jewels

Posted · 7 Comments
(Golden Heart, 2016, watercolor on paper, 15 1/4 x 17 3/4 inches)

 

If you go to the website for the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, then click “Exhibitions,” you will find that from October 26 through December 9 2017 there will be an exhibit of the small-format watercolors that Joseph Raffael has been painting for the past year.

I have never seen one of these small paintings. I have seen a good many of the large paintings, both oils and watercolors, for which Raffael is known, and so I have a difficult time imagining these.

And yet, here they are.  For a long time this year Joseph and I were exchanging emails almost daily and his often included one of these “little jewels,” as Nancy Hoffman calls them.

 

( Radiant Heart
watercolor on paper,
17.50 x 18.25 in.
2017)

 

They really did seem to appear suddenly, one after another, like unexpected gifts. “Radiant Heart” was the first to arrive in my email. Joseph had just finished it, the paint still drying, and I could see the corner of the paper turned down where it lay on the table in his studio.

 

(Dawn Rose
watercolor on paper,
17.50 x 19.50 in.
2017)

 Then “Dawn Rose” came, masking tape marking off something I couldn’t see.  And one grey morning, I woke to find “Lannis Rose” filling an entire email, the only message, in the subject line, “Lannis Rose.”

 

(Lannis Rose
watercolor on paper,

18.75 x 19.00 in.
2017)

 

It was like standing under a beautiful flowering tree, or a gingko, when petals or leaves begin to drift down.  Nothing was required of me except to receive them.

About these paintings, he wrote,

“Had important viewing of my ‘little fellahs’ my new small ptgs at NY Works on Paper Art Fair this past wknd. God orchestrated the whole thing

had done them during this health crisis and they were my anchor in the storm.”

In a recent email, Joseph included this from the beginning of an interview with artist-author Betsy Dillard Stroud (The Artists Magazine, September 2017)

“I had a large ptg already drawn in, but by the time I was ready to begin painting it, I no longer had it in me to paint it. It was large in format.

Inside the drawing there was  a section which attracted me, saying to me ‘it’s me you need to paint’.

So, I cut the smaller section out and began painting it.

This image was to become the first of these, as Nancy Hoffman calls them: ‘jewels’.”

 

 

 

In my first full blog post about Joseph Raffael’s work, and referring to a large watercolor of his wife Lannis, I wrote:

“It is, like most of Joseph’s work, an incandescent mosaic of colors, one color laid down beside another, and another after that. Stand close and each tiny piece, each square inch of the whole, is a painting complete in itself” (Moving Toward the Light: Reflections).

Those paintings, embedded for decades in Joseph’s larger, signature work, seem somehow to have escaped.  I have recently filled my small co-op with balloons, supposedly for the entertainment of my grandson and my cat, both of whom certainly do love them.  What I have discovered along the way is that I love them.  I love the way they scatter in front of me when I walk, the way they drift, all on their own, from room to room, so that the balloons that were in the living room when I went to bed might be clustered in my bedroom or the kitchen in the morning.  I love the way they puff up around my ankles.

I imagine these pieces of paper, color and texture in motion,  out there in the studio, swirling around Joseph’s legs as he paints.

There are eighteen images of flowers on Nancy Hoffman’s site.  It is not possible to choose among them. As the days go by I find that first one, then another, catches my eye and, as is always best with Joseph’s paintings, if I am paying attention, that one will inform my day. It is an exercise in quieting the mind. It is a step into beauty. They are so unlike the large paintings and yet, here is Joseph still, in a pair of roses.

 

(Return
watercolor on paper
19.00 x 19.00 in. | 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Ariane
watercolor on paper,
19.00 x 19.00 in.
2017)   

 

 

I think i knew this one would be called “Dawn.” There is that softness about it that I have only ever seen at first light, and only then in certain places at certain seasons of the year.  Joseph Raffael’s paintings, large and small, are creations of light and I suspect that one of the many joys of owning one of the large watercolors would be to hang it where it caught the light at different times of day in every season. I would expect those paintings to reveal themselves, not all at once, but day by day, year after year.  There are secrets in the large pieces. There seem to be not nearly as many in these small wonderful paintings.

 

 

(Dawn
watercolor on paper
19 x 19 in.
2017)

 

 

 

I love the secrets, the darknesses and the light, the feeling of endlessness, the certainty that I can walk away, have lunch, take a nap, read a book, and return to find something entirely new, and that I can keep on doing that for a very long time.  At my age, just possibly forever.

More a creature of shadow than of light, I peer into these small flowers in search of something I now believe might not be there. I don’t know what Joseph has learned from painting these flowers, but what I am learning is a relationship with simple light and goodness and beauty.

I cannot think of a better way to spend the final decades of my life than in the light of Joseph Raffael’s small jewels.

If you can get to Nancy Hoffman’s gallery, go. Twenty-five of these jewels will hang on the walls. And it is possible that you will walk around a corner and find yourself in front of something much, much larger.  Go and find out.

 

I said, and I believe, that it is not possible to choose among these paintings and yet I have chosen. The painting called “Golden Heart” is the one to which I return again and again.

 

And there is one other that pulls me back. It is called “Peony for Reuben” and, like the others, it is a little shy of 20″ square, a watercolor on paper.

 

 

 

I have a two-and-a-half-year-old grandson who spends a part of every weekend with me. He knows that these paintings are on my laptop and often as soon as he’s in the door, he asks for “Flowers.”  He is learning the names of the paintings. His favorite is “Peony for Reuben.”  A week ago I printed that painting for him and it now sits over the fireplace in his room at home.

Thank you, Joseph Raffael. You are known in my house as “The Flower Guy.”

 

 

(Lily
watercolor
on paper 

19 x 19 in.
2017)

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Please follow and like us:
7 Responses to "From the South of France to the West Side of Manhattan, With Love: Joseph Raffael’s Jewels"
  1. Audra Jean Decker says:

    “Liking” this offering is not enough! I love it! It inspires me! It puzzles me! How does he paint the waterdroplets so colorfully yet accurate? Both the paintings and the words make my heart happy.
    Thank you!

  2. Such delicate beauty. His technique is admirable. Where is this show?

  3. I have followed Joseph’s career for almost 45 years and had the pleasure of meeting him in France. We are fortunate enough to have a number of his works, which continue to fascinate and enthrall everyone, including my own 11 month old grandson. The universal appeal of spectacular beauty.

  4. javsimson says:

    These paintings are gorgeous! It’s hard to believe they’re so small yet so intricate. And they evoke such joy!. I’ve been able to enlarge them on my screen (thank you for posting them so that’s possible) and to savor the details that enhance their striking initial impression.
    I’m a person of light (tend to get depressed as fall and winter set in), and these images really do capture the light!

  5. dremadeoraich says:

    Simply beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Dean…a voice from the past…Reuben W….Joseph sent your blog to me and we both loved it. Glad to see that your talents are out in the world so beautifully. Warmest wishes from the West Coast. R

  7. The beauty is endless…..

Leave a Reply