Artist Ralph Fasanella was born in the Bronx in 1914. He was the third of six children. He spent much of his youth delivering ice with his father from a horse-driven wagon. During the Great Depression, he worked as a textile worker in garment factories, a truck driver, a machinist, and later, a union organizer. Rumor has it—it was during a union organizing drive in 1940 when Fasanella first began to draw.
He painted city life–people at work, on strike and at baseball games. His 1950 painting, Family Supper, is currently on permanent display in the Great Hall at Ellis Island, and his 5-foot by 10-foot painting Lawrence 1912: The Great Strike (which was originally bought by 15 labor unions and the AFL-CIO, and later loaned to Congress) is now on view at the AFL-CIO headquarters. In DC, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is celebrating Fasanella’s work this summer with the exhibit Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget. In the fall, in time for Labor Day, the epic Lawrence 1912 painting will travel to Fasanella’s home town, New York City, and stay at the American Folk Art Museum until November.