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 William Raphael  (1833 - 1914)

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada/Russian Federation      Known for: landscape and coastal view painting, drawing, ink sketches, photography

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Raphael RCA, OSA, SCA, PPCM (1833 – 1914)

An important Canadian painter, draftsman, printmaker, illustrator, photographer and educator, William Raphael was born in Nakel, Prussia (now Naklo, Poland) and died in Montreal, Quebec, where he had lived since 1857. His life and work are discussed in most Canadian art history books and hundreds of his paintings, drawings and prints are in the permanent collections of Canadian museums. (1) (2)

His primary medium was oil paint; in the 19th century several of his paintings were reproduced as chromolithograph* prints. He also created watercolors, graphite drawings, pen & ink sketches, and, from 1859 to 1864, he was an artist at the photography studios of William Notman (1826 – 1891) and later A. B. Taber (fl. c. 1860 – 1893).

Raphael’s subjects included portraits, landscapes, still life, genre*, allegory*, street scenes, farm scenes, snow scenes, action scenes (e.g. Fleeing from Canadian Wolves), historical scenes, religious scenes, Indian genre, boats, harbors, buildings, and animal portraits. He also did anatomical studies to illustrate medical journals, notably those of Dr. William Osler. Raphael’s style was Realism*. The AskART images are good illustrations of his work.

His formal art education was at the Royal Academy of Berlin, Prussia (c. 1853 – 1855), where he studied under Johann Eduard Wolff and Karl-Joseph Begas. (3)

A teacher of painting and drawing for much of his life, Raphael taught privately as well as at high schools, convent schools, and at the Art Association of Montreal [now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts]. His students included Wyatt Eaton and William Towney Benson (1848 – 1907).

Raphael was a founding member of the Society of Canadian Artists (1867), the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1880, council member 1880 – 1897), and the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal* (1890). He was also a member of the Ontario Society of Artists* (1879) and a member of the Council of Arts and Manufactures of the Province of Quebec (1904).

He exhibited with the Society of Canadian Artists (1870 – 1872), the Royal Society of British Artists*, (1877 – 1878), the Ontario Society of Artists (1879 – 1897), the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1880 – 1898), the Art Association of Montreal (1880 – 1901), and the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal (1890 – 1891).

His works were also included in the “Quebec Provincial Exhibition”, Montreal (1865); the “Centennial Exposition”*, Philadelphia (1876); the “Colonial and Indian Exhibition”, London, England (1886); and the “World’s Columbian Exposition”*, Chicago (1893).

In the last 50 years his works were included in several important exhibitions such as “Montreal Harbour”, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1963); “Images for a Canadian Heritage”, Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1966); “Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1967); “Canadian Landscape Painting 1670 – 1930”, sponsored by the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the US State Department for a tour of three American universities (1973)(4); and “Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860 – 1918”, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and touring (2009 – 2010).

His works have also been included in solo and group exhibitions at prominent Canadian commercial galleries such as Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal; Roberts Gallery, Toronto; and Laing Galleries, Toronto.

His paintings are avidly collected in Canada and there are at least 446 of his works in Canadian museum collections.

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, his works are in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New Brunswick), Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), McCord Museum of Canadian History (Montreal), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Riverbrink Art Museum (Queenston, Ontario), Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).

The Sisters of St. Anne Historic Centre, Lachine, Quebec has one of the largest public collections of William Raphael works. Its permanent collection contains 74 oil paintings in subjects spanning almost his entire oeuvre, the only notable exception being anatomical studies.

(1) Raphael’s first stop in North America was New York City where he landed in 1856; he spent four months there painting portraits before moving to Montreal. It’s also noted that “....he travelled through parts of Canada, the United States, and Scotland”; however, our source did not specify dates, cities or towns. Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Volume XIV, 1911 – 1920 (see AskART book references).

(2) William Raphael’s oil on canvas painting titled Indian Encampment on the Lower St. Lawrence dated 1879 is one of the first works collected by the National Gallery of Canada. The painting was acquired in 1880; its accession number is 59. Since then fifteen more works by William Raphael have been acquired by the National Gallery of Canada: seven oil paintings, six sketch books and two graphite drawings. The most recent Raphael work acquired is the 1879 oil on wood panel painting titled Boy with a Top; added to the collection in 1989… its accession number is 30513. Source: National Gallery of Canada.

(3) Please note: All artists mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with life-dates after their name, have their own records in AskART.

(4) The three universities are the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Dartmouth College, Hanover; and the University of Texas, Austin. Source: Canadian Landscape Painting 1670 – 1930 (1973), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references).

Benezit Dictionary of Artists (2006), English version (see AskART book references)

Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art: From its Beginnings to 2000 (2002), by Anne Newlands (see AskART book references)

The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)

Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Volume XIV, 1911 – 1920 (1998), edited by Ramsay Cook and Jean Hamelin (see AskART book references)

Home Truths: A Celebration of Family Life by Canada’s Best-Loved Painters (1997), by Joan Murray (see AskART book references)

Art and Architecture in Canada” (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 7, Rakos to Sadowski (1990), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)

Masterpieces of Canadian Art from the National Gallery of Canada (1990), by David Burnett (see AskART book references)

Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980 (1980), by Rebecca Sisler (see AskART book references)

The Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (1978), edited by W. A. McKay (see AskART book references)

Landmarks of Canadian Art (1978), by Peter Mellen (see AskART book references)

Enjoying Canadian Painting (1976), by Patricia Godsell (see AskART book references)

The History of Painting in Canada – Toward a Peoples Art (1974), by Barry Lord (see AskART book references)

Canadian Landscape Painting 1670 – 1930 (1973), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)

A Concise History of Canadian Painting (1973), by Dennis Reid (see AskART book references)

The National Gallery of Canada (1971), by Jean Sutherland Boggs (see AskART book references)

Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (1970), by J. Russell Harper (see AskART book references)

Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art (1967), by R.H. Hubbard and J.R. Ostiguy (see AskART book references)

Great Canadian Painting: A Century of Art (1966), by Elizabeth Kilbourn (see AskART book references)

Painting in Canada: a history (1966), by J. Russell Harper (see AskART book references)

The Development of Canadian Art (1964), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)

An Anthology of Canadian Art (1960), edited by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)

The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III (1960), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art - Its Origin and Development (1943) (paperback 1967), by William Colgate (see AskART book references)

The Fine Arts in Canada (1925), by Newton MacTavish (see AskART book references)
Canadian Heritage Information Network*

National Gallery of Canada
Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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