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 Ary Stillman  (1891 - 1967)

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Lived/Active: Iowa/New York/Texas / Mexico/France/Russian Federation      Known for: abstract expressionist painting, figure and genre

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Ad Code: 3
Ary Stillman
from Auction House Records.
vivid polychrome abstract/geometric composition
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ary Stillman was born in Hretzk, Belarus (White Russia) in 1891.  In 1905, at the age of fourteen, he entered the Academy of Fine Arts at Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania) and received training in traditional academic methods.  He immigrated to America at the age of 16, initially living with his family in Sioux City, Iowa, but by 1912 he had resumed his formal art education, attending the Art Institute of Chicago.

When he moved to New York in 1919, he enrolled at the National Academy of Design, where he also took a job. At night, he studied at the Art Students League with urban realist John Sloan.

Two years later he sailed for Europe. In Paris, he painted and studied at the Academie Montparnasse with André Lhote.  Stillman embraced the Impressionists, experimenting with light and atmosphere.  Numerous exhibits followed his one-man exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in 1928, then known as a bastion of Impressionism and Modern art.

In 1933, fearing the political situation in Europe, Stillman moved from Paris to New York.  Barely four months later Midtown Galleries exhibited paintings completed during his years in France.  In the late 1930s, Stillman produced works for the WPA under the Federal Art Project and was a member of the Artists’ Union and the American Artists’ Congress.  Stillman knew Arshile Gorky, Byron Browne, Adolphe Gottlieb and many other important artists of his day. Stillman was also a member of the Society of Independent Artists (SIA).

Starting in 1944, Stillman began to exhibit with the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors that included Gottlieb, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.  His abstract work from this period was shown in New York’s most influential galleries including Tanager Gallery, the Saltpeter Gallery, and the Mortimer Brandt Gallery, and received important reviews by the critics of the day.  

In the years following World War II, Stillman experimented with “psychic automatism,” working to reveal what lay below consciousness. Stillman was greatly affected by the war, which led to a dramatic shift in his style.  No longer representational, his art embraced abstract forms.  He explained, “For me the world of surface realities is no longer paintable. For nothing is as it formerly seemed…” He exhibited his first abstract composition at New York’s Macbeth Gallery in 1946, a critically acclaimed show.

From 1949 to 1954, annual exhibits at the Bertha Schaeffer Gallery established Stillman as part of the Schaefer stable.  Shortly thereafter, Stillman became a prominent member of the Eighth Street Club, joining artists who would form the genesis of what would soon be referred to as the New York School. He shared a podium with Rothko in a discussion on the topic of abstraction at a 1947 forum for painters and sculptors in New York. During this time, he also showed in group exhibitions throughout New York, as well as in biennials at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Brooklyn Museum.

Stillman worked in New York until the mid-1950s when he and his wife, Frances, moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where they lived from 1957 until 1962.  Failing health forced him to return to the United States; he died in Houston, Texas in 1967.

After his death, a foundation was created at the artist’s request to conserve and promote his work.  Today the Stillman-Lack Foundation remains the repository of his paintings.  The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston organized a major exhibition of Ary Stillman’s work in 1972.  His work is in museum collections throughout the United States.

Selected Memberships:
The American Artists Congress, the Art Students League, the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, and the Society of Independent Artists.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
Exposition Stillman, Gallerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, December 15 - 28, 1928; Ary Stillman, Midtown Galleries, New York, April 18 - May 15, 1934; Paintings: Ary Stillman, Macbeth Gallery, New York, February 18 – March 9, 1946; various exhibitions, Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York, January 1949 – February 1954; Ary Stillman Retrospective, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, February 23 – March 26, 1972.

Selected Public Collections:
The Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; The Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas;  Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska; The Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, Rhode Island; The Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, Massachusetts; and The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Wechsler, James. Ary Stillman: From Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism. New York: Merrell, 2008.
Stillman-Lack Foundation. September 15, 2008.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ary Stillman was a painter who traveled extensively through out the world. He was born near the village of Slutzk, Russia and attended the Imperial Art School, Vilna. In 1907, Stillman immigrated to the United States where he settled in Sioux City, Iowa.

In 1912, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago followed by studies at the National Academy of Design, the Jewish Educational Alliance and the Art Students League of New York under George Willoughby Maynard.

In 1921, Ary Stillman traveled to Paris to study with Andre Lhote. He also traveled and painted in North Africa, the Near East, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, England and southern France. Stillman spent most of the year of 1935 in Houston, Texas. From 1957 until 1962 he painted in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

After 1945, Stillman began painting non-representational work. He returned to Houston where he resided until his death in 1967.

Stillman was a member of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, and the Society of Independent Artists.

Exhibitions included: Salon d'Automne, Paris (1928); Ainslie Galleries, New York; Art Institute of Omaha, Nebraska; Art Institute of Chicago; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Annual Houston Artists Exhibition; Annual Exhibition of the Salons of America, New York; Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, New York; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh.

John and Deborah Powers, "Texas Painters, Sculptors, and Graphic Artists"

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