Hudson River Museum

Yonkers, New York


Photo: Quesada/Burke



Fun City: Celebrating the Life of Ralph Fasanella


"Fun City: Celebrating the Life of Ralph Fasanella," a major exhibition by nationally recognized folk artist Ralph Fasanella, will be on view at The Hudson River Museum, Friday, June 30 through Sunday, Sept. 10, 2000. (left: Happy and Bud Service Station, 1970, oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches, Collection of the Estate of Ralph Fasanella)

Hailed by New York Magazine as the "best primitive painter since Grandma Moses," Fasanella (1914-1997) did not paint the quaint rural scenes of his predecessor. Rather, this long-time Westchester resident celebrated the urban working class, immigrant life and the American dream.

Fasanella was a self-taught artist who drew inspiration from his working class roots. He grew up in an Italian-American immigrant community in Greenwich Village. At the age of six, Fasanella began working with his father delivering ice out of a horse-drawn wagon, while his mother worked as a button hole maker in a dress factory. The Michigan Culture Link says: "Ralph Fasanella first attempted to draw in 1944, and before long he was painting subject matter he became known for: scenes of city life, parades, baseball, union halls, and people, always scenes of people. He regarded his painting as another way to organize for labor and to address social injustice. He wanted his paintings to speak to workers, to give them an appreciation for the labor struggles, and to encourage them to continue to fight to improve their lives." The Avram Gallery at Southampton College of Long Island University, notes that "When Fasanella began to paint in 1945, it was largely due to a desire to reconnect himself with his working-class roots and to give working people a sense of identity and heritage."

Fun City will examine several topics from Fasanella's vast oeuvre. These include scenes of Westchester County, baseball games, street festivals. political rallies and election campaigns.

From 1938 to 1946, Fasanella served as a union organizer and helped to organize workers at local Westchester factories including Otis Elevator in Yonkers and the Anaconda Wire and Cable Company in Hastings-on-Hudson. Fasanella produced a series of labor paintings about the famous 1912 Lawrence, Mass. strike of mill workers over unfair wages. His depiction of striking mill workers in Lawrence, Mass., "The Great Strike--Lawrence 1912," hangs in the meeting room of the House Committee on Labor and Education in Washington. (left: Festa, 1957, oil on canvas, 36 x 40 inches, Collection of the Estate of Ralph Fasanella)

Many of the works in Fun City will be recognizable to local residents, as Fasanella painted nearby urban and suburban neighborhoods. These include Dobbs Ferry and Ardsley N.Y., as well as the east Bronx. where he worked at Happy and Bud's Service Station.

Fasanella's densely-packed canvases are characterized by bright colors and multiple perspectives. Always a socially-conscious artist, Fasanella painted images that are ultimately celebrations of working-class Americans. His "Family Supper," which shows a family like his at the dinner table, was purchased by the Ellis Island museum for $130,000

Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Hudson River Museum.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 2/28/11

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