Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997)
Infinity Field Turin Series 1985
Acrylic on paper, signed on reverse.
Provenance: European private collection.
The youngest of the first-generation abstract expressionists, Theodoros Stamos was born in New York in 1922, to Greek immigrant parents. At thirteen, Stamos received a scholarship to New York’s American Artists’ School, where he studied sculpture. After dropping out of school in 1939, he held several jobs and concentrated on painting. While working in a frame shop in New York from 1941 to 1948, he met Arshile Gorky and Fernand Léger; during the early 1940s he visited An American Place, Stieglitz’s gallery, where he particularly admired the work of Arthur Dove. In 1943, he met Adolph Gottleib and Barnett Newman, with whom he shared an interest in the sciences and primitive cultures.
Stamos was only twenty when he received his first solo exhibition in 1943 at the Wakefield Gallery in New York, during the late 1940s he became a member of The Irascible Eighteen, a group of abstract painters who protested the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s policy towards American painting of the 1940s and who posed for a famous picture in 1950.
These artists were the first American artists to consciously make a break with the School of Paris in pursuing their own aims for a serious new approach to painting. The mature techniques of Stamos, Rothko, and Newman, based on expressive coluor fields, were subtle and more calm in comparison to the explosive, gestural painting of fellow abstract expressionists Pollock and de Kooning.
In 1947, Stamos met the collector Peggy Guggenheim, and fellow artists John Graham, Mark Rothko, and Mark Tobey, the latter during a trip he took to New Mexico, California, and Seattle. His first one-man museum exhibition was held at The Phillips Gallery in 1950, the same year he taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. In 1951, Stamos moved to East Marion, New York, where he developed an expressive color-field technique.
Stamos’ work has shifted and evolved more dramatically than most of the Abstract Expressionsts. He is in fact one of the first to use both “colourfield” and “gestural” techniques, painting across these lines to the end of his career. He shifted his medium from oil to water-based paints, and his painting surfaces became thinner and flatter than those of the earlier works, but without a loss of luminosity and beauty of coloration. They are marked with great attention to not only the apportioning of colour to area and shape, but also the layering – or veiling – of colour. Beginning in 1955 and for the following twenty-two years he taught at the Art Students League. From 1970 on, he spent part of every year on the island of Lefkada in Greece, where he started his Infinity series. After ending his teaching career in 1977, Stamos travelled extensively and had numerous one-person shows in New York and Europe.
He died in Greece in 1997.
SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich, Germany
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Museu dí Arte Moderno, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, Austria
National Picture Gallery, Athens, Greece
National Pinacotek, Athens, Greece
San Francisco Art Institute Galleries, San Francisco, California
Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York
The Chrysler Art Museum, Norfolk, Virginia
The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (7 works.)
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
University Art Museum, Berkeley, California
Wilheim-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen, Germany
Tate Modern, London (3 works 1971)