Profile: Raymond Steth (1917-1997)

Raymond Steth,  born Raymond Ryles, was a Philadelphia-based artist recognized for his paintings on the African-American condition in the mid-20th century, often through scenes of rural life and poverty. Working under the Works Progress Administration’s graphics division in the 1930s and 1940s, Steth’s art covered a range of topics and emotions from pleasurable farm life to protest and despair.

Early life

Steth was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1917 to Lulu Mann and Charles Ryles, a working-class farming family. He spent much of his childhood on a large farm in North Carolina, which would later influence his artwork.


Steth began working in the graphics division of the WPA-sponsored Federal Art Project in Philadelphia starting in 1938, where he met and collaborated with Dox Thrash, known for developing new methods of Carborundum printmaking, who believed Steth’s work could be transferred to a print medium. He also worked alongside Michael B. Gallagher, John Turner, and Claude Clark, a group with whom he would often exhibit his work with.

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