Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ralph's Take on Rembrandt

Ralph Fasanella had trouble painting hands. A lot of trained artists do too, so it is not surprising that a union organizer who turned to drawing suddenly at the age of 40 would struggle with hands early in his career. But he did have something that proved better than years of formal training: he believed that he was an artist and that what he was doing - painting the lives of working people - was a calling that deserved his complete attention and all-consuming passion.

And that made him react when anyone suggested that his paintings weren't up to snuff. He said that he was painting "felt space," not real space. His people and the urban settings he placed them in were not realistic in the purest sense of the word, but they sang with spirit and emotion. As Ralph said, "I may paint flat, but I don't think flat."

His most memorable quote, and the one that says the most about him, occurred very early in his artistic career, when someone told him that his hands looked like sticks. He ought to study Rembrandt's hands, they said, in order to get it right.

His response is priceless: "Fuck you and Rembrandt! My name is Ralph!"


  1. The quote stays with you, doesn't it? Kind of an all-purpose response :-)

  2. Especially to one who has made a living as an
    Illustrator, as I have.

    I'll think of it always from now on!! :~)

  3. It's not even 7 AM this morning and already my day is made thanks to this post. I understand his "felt space" and especially understand his quote, having heard many people through the years tell me that I should paint like this artist or that artist.
    God bless Ralph for having the balls to say what I'm sure many artists have thought when hearing unsolicited advice.

    Great post, Paul.

  4. Thanks, Gary! You won't be getting any advice from me.


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