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Theodoros Stamos

(1922—1997)


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(1922–97).

Painter. An abstract expressionist, in early paintings he favored biomorphic shapes floating through mysterious primeval spaces. Often resembling the work of William Baziotes, these works grew also from the artist's admiration for aspects of surrealism and for the work of Arthur Dove. In addition, they incorporated interests in natural history, ancient myth, and the power of primitive forms. During the 1950s feathery brushstrokes created limited but energized color areas. Continuing to simplify and condense, in the 1960s he completed his most reductive canvases, based on rectangular elements. Later, under the general rubric of the Infinity Field series, he arrived at serene and poetic color abstractions, sometimes traversed by linear elements. Reflecting his appreciation for the spiritual dimension of nature and for eastern philosophies, these generally allude to nature, often suggesting atmospheric landscapes or seascapes. Born in New York, Stamos began to study sculpture in evening classes at the American Artists School while still in high school, which he abandoned in 1939, a few months short of graduation. As he learned to paint on his own, from 1941 until 1948 he ran a framing shop, which brought him into contact with artists and their work. He had his first one-person show in 1943 at a gallery directed by Betty Parsons, who included him among her artists after she opened her own space. In 1947 he traveled to the West Coast, where he visited Mark Tobey. On a trip to France, Italy, and Greece the following year, he made the acquaintance of a number of leading European artists. During the several years after the death of his good friend Mark Rothko in 1970, Stamos's artistic accomplishments were overshadowed in the public mind by a lengthy court battle concerning his role in administering Rothko's estate. Stamos and two other executors charged with overseeing disposition of Rothko's paintings were accused of impropriety in their transactions with the Marlborough Gallery. They had allowed the gallery to reap enormous profits from the sale of Rothko's work without realizing commensurate benefits to the estate, while at the same time Stamos joined the gallery's prestigious stable in 1971 and had his first show there the following year. As part of the settlement, his house in Manhattan was taken from him, although he was allowed life tenancy. Meanwhile, in 1970 Stamos visited Greece, his parents' homeland, for only the second time. He subsequently summered regularly on the Ionian island of Lefkada (or Levkás) and died an honored son of Greece in a hospital in Yiannina (or Ioánnina) in the northwestern part of the country.

Subjects: Art.


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