Since the early 1990s, the American Folk Art Museum has acquired more than one hundred works by the self-taught painter Ralph Fasanella, many of them gifts from the artist and his family. In 2005 the Estate of Ralph Fasanella made a donation of seven large-scale paintings to the American Folk Art Museum, augmenting the institution’s holdings with some of the most distinctive examples from the artist’s corpus. Between 2009 and 2013 the estate gave the museum a major gift of 102 preparatory drawings and sketches, along with a significant archive of Fasanella’s papers, establishing the largest public repository of the artist’s work. The archive, a vast resource for scholarship, includes correspondence, sketchbooks, notebooks, photography, professional records of note, source material, audio-visual media, publications, and clippings.
The Ralph Fasanella Collection and Archive preserves and continues the artist’s legacy of social engagement. It is of particular interest to students and scholars who are completing research in the areas of art history, Italian-American culture, labor rights, social activism, and New York City history.
Ralph Fasanella (1914–1997) was a working-class New Yorker and renowned painter of “social reality.” Through his colorful and dense compositions, he depicted complex themes of social and political unrest, historic events, the importance of leisure, and the unique energy of New York City and its citizens.
Fenimore Art Museum launched a comprehensive online database of its entire art collection for the first time in early 2021. On this site you will find more than 2,000 artworks representing our fine art, American Folk Art, and American Indian collections, with new high quality photography and updated catalogue information. This database includes 12 important paintings by Ralph Fasanella, which the museum has collected over a period of forty years. The works span Fasanella’s entire career, and include nearly all of his signature subjects, including politics, urban life, portraiture, and baseball.
Ralph Fasanella celebrated the common man and tackled complex issues of postwar American political life in colorful, socially-minded paintings. In 2014 the Smithsonian American Art Museum inaugurated Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget celebrating the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth and brought together key works from a career spanning fifty-two years. Watch Marc Fasanella, son of the artist, and Leslie Umberger, curator of folk and self-taught art at the museum, as they shed light on the artist’s life, family, and artistic career.