Skip to main content

Alvin Raffel Papers

Identifier: UAF-00-RaffelA


  • Creation: 1920-1991

Biographical / Historical

Alvin Robert Raffel was born in 1905 in Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from Stivers High School in 1923 after having shown promise and interest in the fine arts. He moved to Chicago after graduation to attend the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago throughout the mid 1920s and early 1930s. Beginning in 1930 until 1935, he traveled frequently throughout Europe and the United States on numerous bicycle and automobile tours, drawing and making sketches of the people and places he observed. Throughout this time, he also worked as a lithographer as a member of the Amalgamated Lithographers of America Union. In 1940, he married his wife Mildred, and he was drafted into the military in 1943 to participate in World War II. As a Conscientious Objector to the war, Raffel tried to avoid being drafted and eventually ended up in the medical corps as a roentgenologist to avoid combat. He was honorably discharged in 1944, but the anatomical lessons he learned in the military medical school would stay with him and inform his opinions on human anatomical drawing for the rest of his life. In 1946, he was hired by the Dayton Art Institute (DAI) as a faculty member, where he taught a variety of painting and drawing classes until his retirement in 1971. From 1964-1965, he went on sabbatical leave from the DAI to travel throughout Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean to study the history, culture, and art styles of the Greek and Mediterranean peoples. He also worked on conservation projects while employed by the DAI. Raffel died in 1987 at the age of 81, leaving behind a legacy of artworks and students who would go on to contribute to the art world and the Dayton community as he had done.

Raffel was both a locally famous and nationally renowned artist during his peak years at the DAI. His most famous painting, Holiday on the Ice, was exhibited in Pepsi-Cola’s second annual Portrait of America art contest in 1946. The exhibit opened at the Rockefeller Center, then toured the country, giving Raffel newfound national fame; this led to three successive invitations to show works in the Carnegie Institute’s prestigious Painting in the United States exhibitions of 1946-1948. Raffel participated in numerous other exhibits throughout his time as a DAI faculty member, including several smaller ones in the University of Dayton’s John F. Kennedy Memorial Union Gallery. He was a local celebrity, often appearing in the Dayton Herald or the Dayton Daily News because of his art or the various projects he undertook with his wife Mildred, and he contributed writings to the University of Dayton’s student arts magazine, Exponent, in the early 1960s. He was also a member of the Dayton Society of Painters and Sculptors.

Raffel’s personal philosophy on art was very grounded in nature and spirituality. He was a religious man who believed that nature was the best teacher of art that a person could have. His beliefs about God and nature are often reflected in his works, which frequently show representational scenes of ordinary people in the natural world. He greatly admired artists from history such as Cezanne, Rembrandt, Leonardo, and Pieter Brugel. Currently, several of his works are on display or are owned by the Dayton Art Institute.


5.6 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University Libraries Repository

300 College Park Dr.
Dayton Ohio 45469-1360