Born in Russia, Raphael Soyer emigrated to the United States in 1912. After settling in New York City, the young Soyer pursued an art education at Cooper Union from 1914 to 1917 and at the National Academy of Design from 1918 to 1922. He was referred to as an American scene painter and is identified as a Social Realist because of his interest in men and women in contemporary settings that include streets, subways, salons and artist studios in New York City. Soyer's earliest work was consciously primitive in manner. Until the late 1920s, he typically used frontal presentations, shallow pictorial space and figures rendered in caricature. Later, he developed brushy, more gestural style that was tonal rather than coloristic.
His interest in depicting his urban environment was expressed early in his career, and as the Depression continued, the artist turned to subjects directly related to the prevailing economic difficulties. In the 1930s, the new role of working women caught Soyer's imagination and led to his work depicting self absorbed women in "Office Girls, 1936." In addition to paintings, he executed a number of lithographs of Depression scenes. His works dwelt on the grim realities of poverty and industrialization. After 1940, Soyer began to concentrate on the subject of women at work or posing in his studio, and his technique became more sketch-like. In 1967, Soyer was given a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and his paintings have beens displayed at many museums and galleries.