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Athanasios Zacharias

 (born 1927)
Athanasios Zacharias is active/lives in New York, Massachusetts.  Athanasios Zacharias is known for Abstraction, illustrator-science.

Athanasios Zacharias

Biography from the Archives of askART

This following biography was researched, compiled, and written by Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director, Southold Historical Society, Southold, NY.

Athanasios Zacharias (b. May 1, 1927)
A.K.A. “Athos Zacharias,” “Arthur Zacharias”

Painter.  Born in Marlborough, Massachusetts, he grew up in nearby Fall River.  A noted abstract artist who worked early in his career as the studio assistant to a number of important American painters, including Willem de Kooning (1904 – 1997) and Lee Krasner (1908 – 1984).

As World War II came to a close, Zacharias enlisted in the military late in 1945 at Fort Banks, located in Boston.  Following his military service and using the GI Bill, he studied first at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in 1952.  He spent the following summer at the Art Students League summer school, located in Woodstock, New York.  He then went on to receive his Master’s degree in Fine Art from the Cranbrook Academy of Design in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in 1953.  He returned to Providence where he taught briefly – during 1955 – at prestigious Brown University.

Zacharias moved to New York City in 1956, where he lived with Howard Kanovitz (1929 – 2009), another artist from his hometown.  He worked part time doing carpentry for a neighbor, the American artist Larry Rivers, who eventually selected him to participate in the Art USA Contemporary exhibit in New York City.  He was known for becoming immediately involved in the artistic community, and eventually forged relationships with many important artists, including Mary Abbot (b. 1921), Grace Hartigan (1922 – 2008), Lee Krasner, Alphonso Ossorio (1916 – 1990), Jack Tworkov (1900 – 1982), and most notably, Willem de Kooning.  Soon after he and de Kooning met they hit it off, and Zacharias soon found himself working as de Kooning’s assistant in his first studio, located on 10th Street in New York City.  Elaine de Kooning also became close to him, and noted that as a painter he “…has serendipity: his colors and forms always charge into the right place at the right time.”  Zacharias also worked as Lee Krasner’s studio assistant in East Hampton following the death of her husband, the noted abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956).

While his early works were primarily representational – many depicting scenes around and nearby Providence (particularly on the Seekonk River) – they were quickly becoming more and more abstract.  As one reviewer noted in 1952, his oils were often “…almost pure, impressionistic color and brushwork” while others depicted “…abstraction stemming from jagged sculptural forms.”  The reviewer concluded by noting “Zacharias proves he can paint.

Both Willem and Elaine de Kooning considered him part of “The Club,” a group of artists and critics in New York City who discussed theory and practice during the early 1950s and into the 1960s.  William de Kooning noted in 1961 that “Zacharias was as much in the middle of it as anyone,” even though he was among the youngest of the artists involved.  Bonnie Rosenberg of the website ‘New York Art World’ has written that of all the New York City artist hangouts of this era, the “most popular was the Eighth Street Club, or simply 'The Club,' which was established in the fall of 1949.  It was social as much as intellectual; Paris cafe life for New Yorkers.

As his works turned more abstract, Zacharias began to receive many positive notices in major publications and newspapers, such as Art News and the Village Voice.  When he exhibited at the Bolles Gallery, located in San Francisco, California in 1959, one critic wrote “with him, black is space and color is movement and surfaces are alive with extremely powerful tension.”  Later that year, in his exhibition at the March Gallery in New York City, the reviewer Dore Ashton  noted that Zacharias was showing “… an impressive group of small, oil-on-paper studies.”  At the close of 1959 he exhibited in a group show at Willard-Lucien Gallery along with David Lund (b. 1925) and Sal Sirugo (b. 1920), where he was noted as being “the liveliest exhibitor in this three-man show.”  By 1962, art critic Howard Hunt noted that “…Zacharias is, of course, powerful, physical (more than tactile) and startling” in his paintings at New York City’s Louis Alexander Gallery.

During this period the shows in which he participated made him enough money so that he could buy a piece of land in Springs, located just north of the village of East Hampton on far eastern Long Island, New York.  For the next two decades he would work on and off in creating his summer home there while residing during the winter in New York City.  Designed in the International Style, Zacharias has noted that the house became “…an outgrowth of my strong interest in architecture, an interest that also influenced my art.  Seemingly countless renovations, redesigns and expansions of this home have provided an occasionally useful distraction from the rigors of painting.”  He began showing at Guild Hall, also located in East Hampton, in 1961, where he would win a number of prizes in subsequent years.

In 1964 he received a prestigious purchase award from the Longview Foundation, for which his old friend – Willem de Kooning – had recommended him.  He began teaching on a more regular basis during the mid-1960s, first briefly at the Parsons School of Design (1966) before taking a permanent position as an Associate Professor of Art at Wagner College, located on Staten Island, where he would teach from 1967 and 1988.  He also taught at the State University of New York at New Paltz in 1971.  From the early 1960s through the late 1970s he received several commissions, both for businesses, as well as art groups, including the Manhattan Ballet Festival of Dancers and the Edith Stephens Dance Company, both of New York City.  He is also known to have done some illustration work, including publication covers.

Zacharias had become a fixture in the Hamptons, and during his solo at the Benson Gallery in 1967 it was remarked that he “…has, for some years, been identified with the abstract expressionist painters of the Hamptons area.”  Back in New York City, his participation in the Westbeth artist exhibition of 1971 brought him further praise, this time from the critic Gordon Brown, who  remarked that due to the clever texturing of his paintings “…there is a piquant touch of realism in these very abstract works.”  At his 1980 solo exhibit at Guild Hall entitled “Zacharias: Abstract Illusionism” a reviewer noted that in his works “…movement itself is captured as energetic paint sweeps reach left and right, inviting the eye and mind to follow…”

Since that time, he has continued to receive positive reviews, and has participated in many, many exhibitions, both in the group and solo formats.  Now, in his late eighties, he finds himself more of a local in the Hamptons than many who arrived there before him.  At the Benson-Keyes Art Gallery summer 2009 group exhibition Zacharias was included among – what local newspapers called – local “A-list” artists.  During his long career, he has worked primarily with oil and acrylic paints in a variety of styles, from the more representational works of the early 1950s, to his near totally abstract paintings of the 1960s, to his later works that have been based upon or included grid patterns, collage work, decoupage, etc.

Though there are undoubtedly other exhibitions in which Athanasios Zacharias participated, those presently known include the following exhibitions:  Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI, 1952, 1955; Faunce House Art Gallery, Brown University, Providence, RI, 1952 (solo); Rhode Island League for Art and Crafts, Providence, RI, 1952-53; Boston Arts Festival, Boston, MA, 1954; Art USA Contemporary Exhibit, New York, NY, 1959; Bolles Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 1959-60; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX, 1959; Great Jones Gallery, New York, NY, 1959-60 (solo); March Gallery, New York, NY, 1959; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC, 1959; Pan Pacific Exhibition, Kyoto, Japan, 1959; Willard-Lucien Gallery, New York, NY, 1959; 4th Annual Lower East Side Independent Artists Exhibit, New York, NY, 1959; Gallery Mayer, New York, NY, 1961 (solo); Guild Hall, East Hampton, NY, 1961 (prize), 1963, 1979 (prize), 1980 (solo), 1984-85, 2004 (solo); Joachim Gallery, Chicago, IL, 1961; Robert Keene Gallery, Southampton, NY, 1961 (solo), 1964 (solo); Louis Alexander Gallery, New York, NY, 1962; Riverside Museum, New York, NY, 1962; Tanager Gallery, New York, NY, 1962; Benson Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY, 1967 (solo); Festival Arts Exhibit, Southampton College, Southampton, NY, 1968 (prize); Westbeth Artists, New York, NY, 1970-72; Image Galley, Stockbridge, MA, 1971; OK Harris Gallery, New York, NY, 1972, 2007 (solo); Bertram Russell Centenary, Nottingham, England, 1973; Landmark Gallery, New York, NY, 1973, 1976-79; Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, 1974; James Yu Gallery, New York, NY, 1977 (solo); Fred Dorfman Gallery, New York, NY, 1978 (solo); Ashawagh Hall, East Hampton, NY, 1980 (solo); Adagio Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY, 1983 (solo); Elena Prohaska Gallery, New York, NY, 1983 (solo); Anita Shapolsky Gallery, New York, NY, 1985; Kenkeleba Gallery, New York, NY, 1985; Hempstead Museum, Hempstead, NY, 1986; National Academy of Design, New York, NY, 1986; New Dutch Art Fair 86, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1986; American Academy of Arts & Letters, New York, NY, 1986 (solo); Benton Gallery, Southampton, NY, 1986 (solo); Bologna Landi Gallery, East Hampton, NY, 1986, 1992 (solo), 1993 (solo); Galerie Kwartijn, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1986-87 (solo); Vered Gallery, East Hampton, NY, 1986 (solo); La Foret Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 1987; International Conference Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 1988; Nuance Galleries, Tampa, FL, 1988 (solo); Providence Art Club Gallery, Providence, RI, 1991 (solo); Arttra Project, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1991 (solo); Owl 57 Gallery, Woodmere, NY, 1993-2008 (solos); Elaine Benson Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY, 1995 (solo); Jaski Art Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1996; Artists Equity Broome St. Gallery, New York, NY, 1997; Federal Reserve Bank, New York, NY, 1997; Nabi Gallery, Sag Harbor, NY, 1998; Russian Embassy, New York, NY, 2000; Russian American Foundation, New York, NY, 2001; Russian American Cultural Center, Brooklyn, NY, 2001; Silas Marder Gallery, Southampton, NY, 2006; Gallery North, Setauket, NY, 2008; Benson-Keyes Arts Gallery, Southampton, NY, 2009.

His works are known to be in the following public institutions at present:  Butler Art Institute, Youngstown, OH; Corcoran Gallery Of Art, Washington, DC; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Kalamazoo Institute of Art, Kalamazoo, MI; Longview Foundation, Falls Church, VA; Museum of Art, Providence, RI; Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, and the Phoenix Museum Of Art, Phoenix, AZ.

Among the more prominent private collections in which he is held at present include:  AVX Corporation, Long Island, NY; Best Products Corporation, Richmond, VA; Fram Corporation, Worcester, MA; E.F. Hutton & Co., New York, NY; McCrory Corporation, New York, NY; and the Westinghouse Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA.

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About  Athanasios Zacharias

Born:  1927 - Marlborough, Massachusetts
Known for:  Abstraction, illustrator-science