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Moses Soyer (American (born Russia), 1899-1974)

Ballerina, n.d.

Ballerina, n.d.

Oil on canvas 38 in. x 32 in. (96.52 cm x 81.28 cm)

Crocker Art Museum, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Herzl and Betty Friedlander


  • Moses Soyer, his twin Raphael, and younger brother Isaac, came to the United States from Russia with their family in 1912 and settled in the Lower East Side of New York City. Their father, a liberal Hebrew scholar, instilled in his sons a strong social conscience and love for learning and art. All three came to paint in a Social-Realist style. Depicting urban dwellers of the 1930s, their paintings featured exhausted shop girls, absorbed office workers, and melancholy entertainers who dramatized the toll of the Great Depression. Moses Soyer began his artistic training in 1916, taking classes in New York at Cooper Union, the National Academy of Design, the Educational Alliance, and the Modern School. After traveling to Europe on a fellowship, he taught at several schools until the Depression made such teaching positions scarce. Like many artists, he found employment through the Works Project Administration and collaborated with Raphael to paint murals for the Kingsessing Post Office in Philadelphia. Influenced by Robert Henri, George Bellows, and other Urban Realists, Soyer frequently painted simple, moving portraits of the lives of the passive proletariat. After the Depression, he turned to ballet subjects reminiscent of the work of Impressionist Edgar Degas, but with a penchant for conveying introspective, sentimental moods.

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