Thursday, 24 December 2009
American Abstract Expressionist Pile Tapestries from the 1970s. Have they been bypassed by Art Historians? The Case of the Works of Theodorus Stamos
Recently I have been consulted in order to provide information on a pile tapestry signed Stamos. The artist was of course already registered in my database. But data was unsatisfactory in providing a complete statement about the tapestry. So work had to be done as the dead time was too short for the sale, I will share the results in this present article.
Theodorus Stamos (1922-1997), was an American artist born in New York, whose parents were Greek immigrants. He studied sculpture under Simon Kennedy and Joseph Kouzal at the American Artist School, New York in 1936. He then worked as a teacher in a number of different institutions such as: Black Mountain College in North Carolina, the Art Students' League in New York, and Columbia University, School of Fine Arts in New York.
Tapestry design signed and annotated by the artist in Thedorus Stamos 1922-1997, a retrospective, no 116 p305, National Gallery of Art
In parallel with his work, he took up painting and exhibited his works for the first time in 1943. Influenced by Surrealism in the beginning, his style evolved towards abstraction after a trip to Europe. In the 1950s he joined the New York group called The Irascibles. In 1947 he met and became a close friend of Mark Rothko. He received several awards and became one of the youngest painters of the American Abstract Expressionist movement. In the 1970s he was involved in an important legal suit concerning the Rothko estate. Meanwhile, he repeated his travels in Greece and the Islands and finally moved there, where he organized a number of events and exhibitions with the local population. The paintings from this period belonged to the Infinity Fields series and followed the Sun-Boxes (1963-70). Theodorus Stamos works are now in numerous major private and public museum collections.
Soon Stamos became interested in textile art and began a collaboration with Gloria Finn lasting from 1954 to 1963, producing hooked rugs and tapestries. A work from that period was given by Gloria Finn to the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Later in 1968 he reinvested in this field with the E. Charles Slatkin Inc. Galleries. Two of his woollen works, Sunset 8 and Red Square, were illustrated in the catalogue of the exhibition entitled American Tapestries published that same year. These tapestries follow the Sun-Boxes style, very much influenced by Mark Rothko. In the book Theodorus Stamos 1922-1977, a Retrospective (Anna Kafetsi ed., National Gallery and Alexandros Soutzos Museum, 1997), other details are provided for the tapestries that were produced between 1970-1975 in the Infinity Fields style, especially from the Lefkada series. The maquettes and preparatory designs donated by Regina Slatkin and her family to the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. and the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, Plattsburgh, N.Y., (clubs.plattsburgh.edu) were made in the form of collages as in his other paintings. Furthermore they were carefully annotated with comments about the colours, material and height of the pile. Sometimes several months were necessary to determine a satisfactory outcome for the artist. For that reason differences appeared between the original drawings and the final pieces. The woollen piled tapestries edited by Slatkin and hand knotted in India, bear the signature in the pile and were produced in limited numbers of 10-12 units. His largest work was a commission for the lobby of an office building at 150 East 58th Street, Manhattan.
After having looked through many reference books and catalogues of Theodorus Stamos, we have extended the search to other artists of the 1968 Slatkin exhibition such as Jim Dine, Robert Motherwell and Frank Stella. We have stated that generally the tapestries are not referenced by art historians and biographers even if they are not copies. So a lot still remains to be done in 2010 for the artists' foundations, researchers and The Carpet Index.
News and Auctions
1)Omega Workshops update: as we have referenced the carpets from the Omega Workshops in a previous article, we can now add a new one found in the collection of the Minneapolis Art Museum, US, by Roger Fry, 1914, 241.3cm x 185.4cm (95in x 73in), ref. 2001.56 (www.artsmia.org).
2)Francis Bacon: post update. Thanks to the Tate exhibition on the early years of the artist, Clive Rogers and I have included a new rug in our reference catalogue. The rug is present in a black and white photo published in the Sphere magazine in 1933. The same design was represented as a painting in the background of a work by Roy de Maistre called Still Life from 1933, at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, reproduced in the Maistre biography. This example is the only one where we can compare a painting and the related rug of Francis Bacon. The global figure of rugs by Bacon can now be evaluated as 14. More details of our study will be available this week in the bimonthly magazine for Oriental and Classical carpets, Hali.
Article Written by Jean Manuel de Noronha