Accomplished Artist Captures Jewish Themes with a Spiritual Twist

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Marilyn Faham                 

 

A truly gifted painter, Raphael Morcillo is known for his Judaic scenes of the twelve tribes and the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, emblazoned in colorful expanses.  Raphael’s oversized works incorporate Jewish symbolism in an expressive, dynamic style.   

Born in Paris, France, Raphael moved to Miami, Florida with his family when he was ten years old. In ninth grade he attended DASH, Design Architecture Sr. High School, in Miami and he immersed himself in his painting. As a student in high school, he drew animals and human anatomy in his sketchbook.    

The following year, in tenth grade, Raphael attended Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Northern Miami.  During that period, he worked in his studio on his canvases.  “My pieces at that time were pop art, very shiny, geometric works.”  Raphael recalls that during SAT week one of his pieces was delivered via private jet as a gift to a special client.  His early paintings were influenced by graffiti and different commercial/pop artists.  His father, Hugo, encouraged him to upgrade to more formal compositions.  Hugo told his son, “Whatever is hard or complicated, draw it!” 

Since then, Raphael’s subjects have included scenes from Kohanim at the Kotel, to a lion symbolizing kingship with a timepiece, to the Splitting of the Sea of Reeds.  

“I don’t sketch anything [before painting on the canvas].  I take a very big canvas and sketch with paint.  If to my eyes it’s not perfect, I paint right on top of it,” Raphael states. 

One of the artist’s recent paintings, “The Yam Suf” measures 12 feet tall and five feet wide.  The painting instantly draws the viewer into the dramatic Splitting of the Sea of Reeds.  B’nai Israel cross the sea in this modern rendition, which shows the sea emblazoned in blue with crests of white foam.  Hebrew words from Perashat Beshalach spray upward from the parting waters.  Executed in a beautifully  expressive style, Raphael creates an expansive scene that truly engages and uplifts the viewer. 

In another major piece, “Birkat Kohanim,” Raphael divides the scene into two canvases measuring six feet by four feet each.  The majestic Kotel stands in the background, rendered in expressive dabs of rich color.  Covered in prayer shawls, the kohanim recite Birkat Kohanim in the foreground. Spirituality and energy are expressed in this captivating work against the sanctity of the Kotel.  

 As a student at the Mikdash Melech yeshiva, Raphael’s Torah studies brought a new depth and significance to his work. He recently made a portrait of the rosh yeshivah of the Brooklyn branch of Mikdash Melech, Rabbi Haim Benoliel, and of the yeshivah’s patron Albert Dweck.  The rosh yeshivah’s portrait now hangs in the rabbi’s home in Brooklyn. 

Raphael recently met with Rabbi Benoliel. Raphael discussed his plans to create eight to ten new works to be showcased at an upcoming fundraising event for the new building addition to Mikdash Melech.       

If you are interested in learning more about Raphael’s work, please contact: karine.abbou@gmail.com.