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 Kelly Haygood Stevens  (1896 - 1991)

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Lived/Active: Texas      Known for: naive landscape painting

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Ad Code: 4
Kelly Haygood Stevens
from Auction House Records.
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Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Stevens, Kelly Haygood, 1896-1991. Mexia, Austin painter, teacher, writer, cabinetmaker.

"Stevens was born in Mexia, Texas.  After scarlet fever left him deaf at five, his parents enrolled him in the Texas School for the Deaf, Austin, where he was a student of Nannie Huddle.  After graduating about 1914, Stevens enrolled in Gallaudet College, Washington, D.C., studying concurrently at the Corcoran School of Art, where his instructors included Richard Norris Brooke and Edmund Clarence Messer.  Gallaudet granted Stevens a bachelor of arts (1920) and later an honorary doctorate of humane letters (1971).

 In 1920 Stevens began to teach at the New Jersey School for the Deaf, Trenton, and for a time received instruction in life drawing from Henry R. McGinnis at the Trenton School of Industrial Arts.  In 1925 Stevens studied at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art in Paris.  While in Paris he was a student of Jean Hanau, another deaf painter, and spent the summer of 1926 traveling in Italy and Spain with the Spanish painter, Valentine de Zubiaurre.  Stevens returned in 1927 to the New Jersey School for the Deaf where he remained until 1929.

 He painted in New Mexico and Arizona for a few years, a sojourn that resulted in studies of Indian tribal costumes and dances that are considered some of his best works.  In 1933-1934, Stevens studied again in Paris under Louis Francois Biloul and at the Academie Colarossi under Francois-Henri Morisset.  Stevens then worked about ten months in Madrid with Zubiaurre, with whom he remained friends until Zubiaurre's death in 1963. After painting in 1939 in Taxco de Alarcon, Mexico where he was a student of the portrait painter Wayman Adams, Stevens began in the same year to teach at the Louisiana School for the Deaf, Baton Rouge.  He remained on the faculty until 1949, earning in the interim a master of arts from Louisiana State University (1938).  He took as his subjects during this period bayou scenes and Negro life.  During 1947-1948, he traveled in South America. 

In 1948 Stevens purchased a large stone structure in Austin, built in 1857 to house the German Free School of which Carl Wilhelm von Rosenberg once served as trustee and whose family donated the land upon which it stood.  After returning to Austin in 1949, Stevens restored the building for his home and studio.  He conveyed the property in 1991 to the German-Texas Heritage Society, along with several of his paintings, and gave his collection of works by other artists to the University of Texas at Austin.  Stevens died in Austin and was buried in Mexia.

"Mr. Stevens paints with vivid coloring and is decidedly of the modern school. his subjects have been inspired by various localities and he has achieved the atmosphere of strong sun light in many a theme. The artist is a master in his sureness of line and his flair for pleasing composition." John L. Thom.

Exhibitions: Annual Texas Artists Circuit Exhibition (1929-33, 1952);Southern States Art League Exhibition (1930, 1933); Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1931 one-man); Annual Exhibition of Texas Artists, Dallas, Woman's Forum (1932; Annual Exhibition of the State Fair of Texas, Dallas (1934,1939); International Exhibition of Deaf Artists, Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York; Texas Centennial Exposition, Dallas (1936); Annual Texas Artists Exhibition, (1936); Annual Texas Artists Exhibition, Fort Worth (1937); Golden Jubilee Exposition, State Fair of Texas, Dallas (1938); Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, Austin (1944); Abilene Woman's Forum; Municipal Building, Mexia; Herzog Galleries, Houston (one-man); State Art Gallery, Shreveport, Louisiana; School of Industrial Arts, Trenton, New jersey (one-man); Galeries des Artistes Francais, Brussels; Salon International des Artistes Silencieux and Galeries Reitlinger, Paris; Circulor de Bella Artes, Madrid."

Texas Painters, Sculptors & Graphic Artists by John & Deborah Powers

Information provided by Bill Cheek 

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Kelly Haygood Stevens    1896-1991

Kelly Haygood Stevens was born March 30, 1896, in Mexia, Texas.  Becoming deaf at the age of five, he was sent to the Texas School for the Deaf where he found an early interest in art.  In 1915 he began studying at Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1920 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  During those years at Gallaudet, he supplemented his art education at the Corcoran Art Gallery.  Following his graduation, Stevens taught art at the New Jersey School for the Deaf until 1929, followed by a year and a half as an instructor at the Trenton School of Industrial Arts. 

In the summer of 1926 he traveled to Spain where he studied under the Spanish Deaf painter, Valentin de Zubiaurre, painting the local landscape.  Upon returning to the United States, Stevens became fascinated with Indian life and the local landscapes of his native home state, Texas.  Then, beginning in 1933, he resumed his travels, first going to France, where he focused on painting the Seine, and then to Spain, where he lived in the Basque province and painted the local peasant people.  Back home once again, the artist began teaching art at the Louisiana School for the Deaf in 1936, continuing there as an instructor until his retirement in 1949.  It was during this time that he enrolled at the Louisiana State University and was awarded his M.A. degree in 1938.

The artist devoted his life to art, especially in New Mexico and Arizona, where he stayed for lengthy periods with the Indians.  The results were a series of paintings of their tribal costumes and dances.  It was during this time that he purchased an old school house that he spent a lot of his time restoring.  The Texas Historical Society eventually recognized it as a historical site. 

In 1971 Stevens was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by Gallaudet College.  He died on November 27, 1991, at the age of 95.

Biography courtesy of the Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.

Submitted by Edward P. Bentley, researcher of Lansing, Michigan

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