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 William Lester Stevens  (1888 - 1969)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: landscape, marine, genre, still life; art education

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William Lester Stevens
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Rockport, Massachusetts, impressionist painter William Stevens lived and worked in the area for many years. In the later part of his life, he moved to Conway, Massachusetts.
His first art study was with Parker Perkins, and then he attended the Boston Museum School as a student of Edmund Tarbell, Frank Benson, Philip Hale and William Paxton.  He taught at Princeton and Boston Universities, and by 1964 had won more awards than any other living artist.

Stevens, along with his friend Aldro Hibbard, was instrumental in organizing the Rockport Art Association in 1921 with the goal of making art more accessible to common people. Later in his life Stevens also organized the Conway Festival of the Hills and the Berkshire Arts Festival.

Stevens was a member of the Boston School, traditionalists and impressionists, opposed to abstraction in art.  The subject matter was usually landscape, views of everyday life, and portraits.

William Lester Stevens died on June 10, 1969.

American Art Review, October 2003

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
W. LESTER STEVENS (1888-1969)

Born in Rockport, Massachusetts, Stevens received his initial art training from Parker Perkins, a local marine painter who charged him fifty cents an hour. He later spent four years at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts School, where he studied under Edmund Tarbell, among others. Although influenced by Tarbell, Stevens’ wide range of brushstrokes and impressionist style prevented him from being classified as a “Tarbellist,” as many of Tarbell’s followers were labeled.

Stevens joined the Army in 1917 and was sent to Europe where he continued to paint and sketch. Upon his return to the United States, he was pleased to discover that Rockport had become a popular haven for artists. Though he was the only native son among them, such well-known painters as Frank Duveneck, Childe Hassam, Leon Kroll and Jonas Lie also recorded the scenery of Rockport, Cape Ann and Gloucester.

In 1921, together with fifty other artists, Stevens founded the Rockport Art Association, primarily to plan exhibitions of the work of outstanding area artists.

Throughout the course of his long career, Stevens taught, first in Rockport, then at Boston University (1925-1926) and Princeton (1927-1929). He later gave lessons and held one-man shows in Charlotte and Asheville, North Carolina, where his work was well-received. Southerners particularly enjoyed his views of famous Southern gardens and cities.

Though the Depression years were difficult for both the artist and his family, the 1930s did bring Stevens some measure of commercial and personal success. He did a number of covers for "The American Legion Magazine" and won prizes in New Haven, Springfield and Rockport. In 1934, he abandoned Rockport to the growing tourist population and moved to Springfield, and then to Conway, Massachusetts, where he remodeled an old farmhouse and constructed a studio which looked north towards Mount Monadnock. Except for summer trips made in the 1960s to Lubec, Maine, Campobello Island and Grand Manan Island, Stevens lived and painted in Conway for the rest of his life.

Primarily an oil painter, Stevens also used watercolor and acrylics. Although he was proficient in all three, oils allowed him greater versatility; more significantly, Stevens simply liked oils better. A superb craftsman, Stevens painted rapidly and with assurance, but always took time to find the best vantage point. He understood the importance of placing himself where he could create the best composition and “took the liberty of moving objects so that the composition would meet his desires.” This is perhaps why Stevens would later conclude that “fine pictures are the result of fine minds (Greenfield, p. 13).

Stevens continued to create views of New England until almost the final day of his life, June 10, 1969. He died in Conway, Massachussetts.

Falk, Peter Hastings (ed.)Who Was Who in American Art , 1564-1975, vol. III. New York: Sound View Press, 1999.

W. Lester Stevens, N.A., 1888-1969. Greenfield, Massachusetts: Greenfield College Foundation, 1977.

Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:
William Lester Stevens (American, 1888-1969)

W. Lester Stevens was a landscape painter and teacher from the Boston school of painting. He was born in Rockport, MA in 1888 and he died in Greenfield, MA in 1969. He studied with Parker S. Perkins in Rockport; Tarbell and Benson at Boston’s Museum School; and in Europe after World War I. He was a National Academician and a member of the American Watercolor Society; a founding member of the Rockport Art Association; Springfield, MA Art League; Guild of Boston Artists; Gallery on Moors; New Haven Paint and Clay Club, CT; Gloucester Society of Art; North Shore Art Association; Boston Watercolor Club and the New York Watercolor Club.

He won art awards at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC; American Watercolor Society; New Haven Paint and Clay Club; Springfield Art League; Salons of America; Washington Watercolor Club; North Shore AA; Rockport AA and more. He painted USPO murals in Dedham and Rockport, MA, the Boston City Hall, the Louisville, KY Art Museum and several schools in Boston. He lived in Rockport until 1934 and then moved to Conway. He painted thick impastoed post-impressionistic canvases early in his career and at the end of his life he used almost translucent thin washes of paint. He taught at Princeton University, Boston University, in his various studios, and at the Springfield Art Museum. During the Great Depression he taught painting at Grand Manan. A compulsive painter and known to be an “eccentric,” it is estimated he finished over 5,000 canvases.

Movalli, Charles, American Artist (April 1986)
Who’s Who in American Art (1947)
Who Was Who in American Art (vol. 3, p. 3171-72).

P.J. Pierce

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