Partner Robert Price, Ralph Humphrey

Queer Places:
4960 Rocky Point Rd, East Marion, NY 11939
37 W 83rd St, New York, NY 10024
Tsoukalades Cemetery Tsoukaladhes, Regional unit of Lefkada, Ionian Islands, Greece

Theodoros Stamos.jpgTheodoros Stamos (December 31, 1922 – February 2, 1997) was a Greek-American painter. He is one of the youngest painters of the original group of abstract expressionist painters (the so-called "Irascibles"), which included Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. His later years were negatively affected by his involvement with the Rothko case. His partner was poet Robert Price. In 1948, Stamos traveled with Price to Europe for the first time, visiting France, Italy and Greece (the birthplace of his parents).

Stamos was one of the original and youngest Abstract Expressionist artists working in New York City in the 1940s and 50s. He was born on Manhattan's Lower East Side to Greek immigrant parents; his mother was from Sparta, and his father was raised in Lefkada. As a teenager, he won a scholarship to the American Artists School, where he studied sculpture with Simon Kennedy and Joseph Konzal.[1] His instructor Joseph Solman, who was a member of the group The Ten, became a mentor to Stamos. At Solman's urging, Stamos visited Alfred Stieglitz's influential An American Place Gallery, where he encountered the work of Arthur Dove and Georgia O'Keeffe, among others. During this period, the late 1930s and early 1940s, Stamos held a variety of odd jobs: printer, florist, hat-blocker, and book salesman. Through one job, at Herbert Benevy's Gramercy Art frame shop on East 18th Street, he met members of the European avant-garde, including Arshile Gorky and Fernand Léger.[2] In 1943, when Stamos was 21 years old, prominent dealer Betty Parsons gave him a solo exhibition at her Wakefield Gallery and Bookshop. Parsons became an important ally and connection to the contemporary New York art world; Stamos would show regularly with her until 1957. By the mid-1940s, his career was becoming well established—he exhibited at the Whitney Museum annually from 1945 to 1951, at the Carnegie Institute and the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947, and at the Museum of Modern Art in 1948.[3] Also during this period, Stamos’ work began attracting the attention of collectors. The Museum of Modern art purchased Stamos’ Sounds in the Rock in 1946. And Edward Wales Root, who became both a supporter of Stamos’ career and a benefactor of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, bought the first of many paintings from the artist in 1945. The artist’s paintings from the 1940s combine muted earth-toned colors with biomorphic imagery, suggesting geologic shapes or inchoate organic forms. This dovetails with Stamos’ interest in natural history; as artist Barnett Newman observed in the introduction to Stamos’ 1947 exhibition with Betty Parsons Gallery, “His ideographs capture the moment of totemic affinity with the rock and the mushroom, the crayfish and the seaweed. He re-defines the pastoral experience as one of participation with the inner life of the natural phenomenon.”[4] During the late 1940s he became a member of The Irascible Eighteen, a group of abstract painters who protested the Metropolitan Museum of Art's policy towards American painting of the 1940s and who posed for a famous picture in 1950; members of the group considered as the 'first generation' of abstract expressionists included: Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, Hedda Sterne, Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jimmy Ernst, Jackson Pollock, James Brooks, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Theodoros Stamos, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. These artists are part of the New York School and they were referred to as The Irascibles in an article featured in an issue of Life where the infamous Nina Leen photograph [5] was published. Around 1950, Stamos began exploring a new approach to abstraction. Inspired by East Asian aesthetics, he created his Tea House series of paintings, characterized by softly defined geometric forms painted with a limited palette and often overlaid by dark calligraphic brushwork.

In 1951 Stamos built his house in East Marion, Long Island, designed by Tony Smith. Jackson Pollock, with whom he had a love-hate relationship, and Bradley Walker Tomlin help lay out the batter boards for the actual boundaries of the house. Harold Norse was Dwight Ripley's obsession of the 1951 season, and Norse was richly rewarded by him with the gift of an expensive Picasso that made it possible for him to move to Italy. Fidelity was not a Norse characteristic; as Rupert Barnaby, Ripley's longtime partner, later said, "Dwight is not a griever or a whiner. Gone are the snows of yesterdays." Norse portraied Dwight in his memoirs as the millionnaire "Cyril Reed". Norse had an apartment at 573 Third Avenue, where he lived one floor above a New Zealand painter, Glyn Collins (for a short time in 1945 the husband of Muriel Rukeyser), who was commissioned by Dwight Ripley to paint a portrait of Tony Bower. When Collins gave a party he invited his upstairs neighbor Norse. Other guests that evening included the painter-and-poet couple Theodoros Stamos and Robert Price; the Abstract Expressionist painter William Baziotes and his wife, Ethel; the Living Theatre's founders-to-be Julian Beck and Judith Malina; the social philosopher Paul Goodman and his wife, Sally; John Bernard Myers and his roommate, Waldemar Hansen; the poet Ruthven Todd; and Dwight and Rupert.

People in Dwight Ripley's private audience were artist friends from the east end of Long Island who comprised, with Tony Bower, a remainder of the old Upper Bohemia: Lee Krasner in Springs, Alfonso Ossorio and dancer Ted Dragon at their estate, the Creeks, in East Hampton, and Theodoros Stamos, who, with his younger lover Ralph Humphrey (Price died in 1954), lived nearby in East Marion. Stamos and Humphrey sometimes brought Mark Rothko; when Frank Polach and Douglas Crase asked for a comment on these historic visits, Rupert Barneby's response was "They didn't know how to sit in a chair!" Humphrey had a show of all-black paintings at Tibor de Nagy in 1959, and his subsequent shows at that gallery were likewise in close-valued monotones. Stamos responded to Humphrey's example by restricting the color range in his own work. The red-versus-white standoff of Ahab for R.J.H., now in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, was painted in homage to Humphrey.

With a flourishing career in New York, Richard Bennett was able to travel throughout the world in search of inspiration for his art and illustrations. He often returned to the Northwest for extended periods to be with his family and reconnect with his artist friends. He often brought East Coast friends to Washington State as travel companions, including painter Theodoros Stamos, and Leslie Marchand, the Lord Byron scholar whose parents lived in Seattle.

Later in the 1950s, Stamos worked with compositions that became increasingly reductive and simplified. He explored the use of layers of thin pigment, carefully worked, to create depth in his broad expanses of color.[6] Stamos traveled widely during much of his adult life. In 1947, he traveled by train to New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. In 1948 and 49, he visited Europe, including parts of Greece, and possibly Egypt.[3] For the next four decades, Stamos traveled widely and frequently. These trips both contributed to his aesthetic development and also provided fodder for his broad, deep intellectual interest in the world’s belief systems. Beginning in 1962, he created several long series of paintings; many of these contained sub-series. The Sun-Box series, begun in 1962, explored hard-edged geometries on flat grounds. After 1971, all of his paintings were part of the Infinity Field series. These abstractions are characterized by broad areas of color delineated by slim lines or shapes; the effect is subtle and meditative. Among the Infinity Fields are the Lefkada sub-series, inspired by the Greek island where Stamos spent much of his time from 1970 until his death. He taught at Black Mountain College from 1950 until 1954 and from 1955 to 1975 he taught at the Art Students League of New York and the Cummington School of Fine Arts. Stamos was also a member of the Uptown Group.

In 1961 Stamos sold his house in Long Island, and bought a house on West 83rd Street in Manhattan and moved to "The Barracks" in East Marion, Long Island.

A year before his death he donated 43 of his works to the National Gallery of Greece. After a long period of illness Stamos dies at Yiannena Hospital and is buried at the village of Tsoukalades in Lefkada.


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