Ralph Chessé experimented with a variety of styles from cubism to expressionism throughout his career, and the form of his work ranged from murals to puppetry, though painting took precedence. Much of his work prior to 1956 addresses African American themes or concerns, including his boyhood in New Orleans. In his retirement, he relocated to Ashland, Oregon and painted extensively until his death. In “Family Portrait” we see a traditional family of a mother, father, and child. They hold on, boarded in a fragmented room, in a house that is exposed to the outside elements. The central figures hold each other close, tensely, as the fragile home seems to barely protect them from the stormy weather.
—Grace Kook-Anderson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art
Ralph Chessé (American, 1900–1991). Family Portrait, 1944. Oil on canvas. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Bequest of F. Harrison Taylor, 2001.19 © Estate of Ralph Chessé