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 George Washington Stevens  (1866 - 1926)

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Lived/Active: Ohio      Known for: landscape and marine, museum administration

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
George Washington Stevens was born in Utica, New York, January 16, 1866.  He attended Utica Academy, where his interests were largely centered upon the sciences, and particularly astronomy.  He originally pursued a newspaper career, first in Utica, then in 1889, in Springfield.   In 1890 he took a job on the Toledo Bee, later moving to the Toledo Times editorial staff.

He began painting as a pastime during the early 1890’s, and studied under Edmund H. Osthaus in Toledo and with J. Francis Murphy in New York.  Stevens was one of the founders, in 1895, of the Toledo Tile Club, which campaigned vigorously for the establishment of an art museum in Toledo.  As an organization, they hoped for a place where they could see exhibitions such as were taking place in New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh, and perhaps have a collection of a few masterpieces they could study and where they might be able to show their own works from time to time.   By 1903 George W. Stevens and Edward Drummond Libbey of the Libbey Glass Company were to make that wish a reality.

In 1966 the Toledo Art Museum published a biography written by Blake-More Godwin about the First Director of the Toledo Museum of Art: George W. Stevens. Vigorously celebrating that tenure Godwin states:  

“George W. Stevens came to Toledo for a day and stayed for a life-time.  Toledo was better for it, and the course of art museum development was turned in a new direction after he had set his mind to the problem of making one of them useful to all the people.
   
His career began only after he had been in Toledo for thirteen years, had reached the age of thirty-seven, and had become Director of The Toledo Museum of Art.  When he assumed this post, he had been successively, and successfully, newspaper reporter, columnist, contributor to popular magazines, one of the early advertising writers, promotion and booking manage for three theaters and the summer playhouses conducted by street railway companies in fourteen cities.  He had also traveled extensively abroad, had conducted tours, had published two volumes of verse and had shown his oils and watercolors in frequent exhibitions.”

“The policy of the present day museum, “ Stevens wrote, “ is to bring art into the lives of all the people, for the reason that in it and in the principles that it involves are found the ingredients lacking in our present day civilization and in the prevailing system of education.”  And again:  “It is the function of the modern museum of art not only to call the attention of the human race to these elemental truths which have smoldered in our treasure galleries or in the ruins of earlier civilizations, but also to take the lead in the educational revolution which is to restore and redevelop this important and vital heritage of man.”

The reference to Stevens in the book Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900, states: “During his twenty three-year career as director, Stevens instituted a number of progressive policies previously unknown in American museum administration – including a strong educational program for all ages, in both art appreciation and studio art. 

He died in Toledo, October 29, 1926.


Submitted by Edward Bentley, Fine-Art Researcher from Lansing, Michigan
 

Biographical references: Blake-More Godwin, George W. Stevens, (Toledo Museum of Art) Museum News, 9 (Spring 1966); Toledo Museum Art library.


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