Ralph Fasanella (1914-1997) was born in New York City, the son of poor Italian immigrants. His father was an ice-delivery man, and his mother, who worked in a dress factory, spoke passionately about workers’ rights and labor unions. Ralph frequently skipped school, teaching himself to read from newspapers. At age 10, owing to truancy and troublemaking, Ralph was sent to a Catholic reform school, where he remained sporadically for four years. Thereafter, he worked at various jobs and became deeply involved in the union movement. At age 31, his hands began hurting—possibly from arthritis—and a friend suggested he try drawing to alleviate the pain. Ralph taught himself to draw and paint, visiting museums to study the work of master artists. He painted laborers, street scenes, and American historic events, using vivid, jewel-like colors and filling large canvases with small, rich details, encouraging viewers to savor them and catch every nuance. Eventually, Ralph’s paintings were exhibited in major U.S. museums. This well-written, sympathetic account rightfully shines a light on a major artist who merits wider recognition. The illustrations employ striking, vibrant colors and attention to minute details, masterfully emulating Fasanella’s own style. Readers will enjoy poring over them, in addition to the several included reproductions of Fasanella’s paintings.
A very fine introduction to the life and work of a significant American craftsman.