Will Henry Stevens (1881-1949) was a pioneer of Modernism in the American South who worked simultaneously in both abstract and representational styles. Stevens was incredibly inspired by nature and never stopped working in the outdoors. With diverse influences from Sung Dynasty painting and Taoist philosophy to the Modern masters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, Stevens found an artistic voice truly his own. Inspired by the landscapes of coastal Louisiana and the mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee where he summered, Stevens translated the geometry of nature into abstract compositions, or at times what scholar Jessie Poesch, Ph.d. called “semi-abstracts.” These latter paintings were a result of working in both the abstract and representational simultaneously.
Born in Vevay, Indiana on the Ohio River, Stevens studied at the Cincinnati Academy of Art. He then worked as a designer at the Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati where his work took him to New York where he remained to study at the Art Students League. He taught in Louisville, Kentucky for almost a decade during which time he exhibited regularly in Cincinnati and Louisville. In 1920, Ellsworth Woodward invited Stevens to teach at Newcomb College in New Orleans, a position he held until 1948. He taught the female students at Newcomb College and would invite them along on his summer teaching positions to various locales, but mainly in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.
In 1944, Stevens was given an exhibition at Black Mountain College in North Carolina where the esteemed Josef Albers was teaching at the time. He wrote to Stevens about the show: “I am impressed with your sensitive musicality for color and your ability to handle a multitude of forms and combine them in an organic whole….many artists could learn from you about color and composition.”
Stevens work is in included in the collections of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Morris Museum of Art, the Greenville County Museum of Art, The Historic New Orleans Collection, the New Orleans Museum of Art, among others.
Amanda Winstead Fine Art is pleased to present a selection of works by Will Henry Stevens from several private collections. Carefully collected over many decades, the works on offer show Steven’s true genius as a modern artist. Most of the works presented in this exhibition date to the height of Stevens career in the 1940s when he had fully realized his abstract style. A total of eight works are currently available. We look forward to your inquiry.
Under the Sea Tapestry
watercolor on paper, signed lower left, sight 20 x 14 ½ in., framed.
pastel on paper, signed lower left, sight 17 ½ x 15 ¼ in., framed.
Abstract Floral Composition, 1943
pastel on paper, signed and dated “43” lower left, sight 17 ¼ x 15 in.,
pastel on paper, signed lower right, 11 ½ x 15 ½ in., framed.
Earth, c. 1940s,
oil on board, signed and dated “4?” lower right, sight 26 ¼ x 21 ½ in.,
Delehanty, Randolph, Art in the American South: Works from the Ogden Collection, Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1996.
Gruber, J. Richard, Water, Nature & Spirit: The Art of Will Henry Stevens, Asheville, NC: Blue Spiral 1, 2015.
Poesch, Jessie, Will Henry Stevens, Greenville, South Carolina: Greenville County Museum of Art, 1987.
Pennington, Estill Curtis, Will Henry Stevens 1881-1949; An eye transformed, a hand transforming…, Augusta, Georgia: Morris Museum of Art, 1993.
Severens, Martha, Greenville County Museum of Art/The Southern Collection, New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1995.