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Ralph Chessé

Theme/Style – California Modernism, African-American subjects, portraits

Media – Oils, murals, wood sculptures

Artistic Focus – A self-taught artist and generally a painter on canvas, Ralph Chessé explored many styles of Modernist painting, and was strongly motivated by color. Primarily in the 1940’s, Chessé painted African American figures in scenes recalling his boyhood in New Orleans, in socially realist depictions of dock workers, and in religious themed motifs derived from the Bible. During World War II, he created paintings of the shipyards in the Bay Area.

Career Highlights –

• Ralph Chessé was born in New Orleans and moved to Southern California in 1923. He headed north to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1930s, where he painted and worked as a professional puppeteer, an activity he mastered and continued throughout his life.
• As one of the artists selected in 1933 by the Public Works of Art Project, Chessé’s contribution to the Coit Tower murals, his sole work in fresco, reflected his work in children’s theater.
• Later in life Chessé moved to Oregon where he painted in a more abstract, but still figurative style, until his death at the age of 91.

The Gallery proudly represents the Estate of Ralph Chessé.