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Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997)
Property of Ruth Britten Sold to Benefit The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College
Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997)

Listening Hills Low Sun

Details
Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997)
Listening Hills Low Sun
signed 'STAMOS' (lower left); signed again, titled and dated twice '"LISTENING HILLS LOW SUN" 1957-8 T. Stamos 1957-1958' (on the stretcher bar)
oil on canvas
70 x 53 in. (177.8 x 134.6 cm.)
Painted in 1957-1958.
Provenance
Private collection, New York
Gift from the above to the present owner

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Celine Cunha
Celine Cunha

Lot Essay

With its bursts of Theodoros Stamos’ signature painterly energy, Listening Hills Low Sun is a classic example of the energetic style that defined Abstract Expressionism. Passages of scorching red pigment frame rifts of portentous black and cerulean blue. While Stamos’ rapid brushwork dominates the surface of the painting, the overall composition contains a remarkable sense of serenity—a quality which is inherent in the artist’s best works. Evoking the work of his close friend Mark Rothko, the intense red that occupies the central portion of the present work seems to evoke Rothko’s oft quoted remark that he wanted his paintings to establish such a "presence" that "when you turned your back to the painting, you would feel that presence the way you feel the sun on your back" (M. Rothko cited in J. E. B. Breslin Mark Rothko: A Biography, Chicago 1993, p. 275). As one of the founders of Abstract Expressionism, Listening Hills Low Sun upholds the guiding principles of the movement, as Barbara Cavaliere explains: “Like the others among the small group of painters who evolved in New York City during the 1940s. Stamos strives to communicate metempirical content through the painterly medium. He abhors sheer decoration, and he denies the diaristic as an end. His paintings always begin from the most personal approach and, through the painting process, aim at transforming his innermost emotions into an expression of the timeless qualities which unite human experience. It is this goal which unites Stamos with his generation, and it is the individualist starting point that they share which defines Stamos’ differences from them. His self-identification with the pictures breathes from within the works themselves, and Stamos’ unique character infuses them with a nature and touch that is his alone” (B. Cavaliere, Theodoros Stamos, exh. cat., New York, April 1981, n.p.)
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Born in 1922, Stamos became one of the youngest members of the group that became known The Irascibles. Featuring such famous names as Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Ad Reinhardt this group re-wrote the accepted conventions of art and gave birth to Abstract Expressionism, America’s first truly international art movement. A true painter’s painter, Stamos’s masterful handling of his medium can be seen across the surface of this large canvas as it invites silent contemplation wherein the viewer is lured through the paintings outer layer into the recesses of its underlying strata. Stamos’s paintings were born out of a harmonious interplay between intellect and emotion. As the artist himself has described, “Painting at its best consists of truth to one’s paint, to one’s self and one’s time, and most of all to one’s God and one’s dream” (T. Stamos, as quoted in The New American Painting, New York, p. 72). Indeed, as Cavaliere explains, “Because each painting is the memory of a moment in Stamos’s experience, each one differs from the others. Living organisms cannot repeat inner states exactly; the direction of a line, the character of an edge, an accent of color are never quite the same. Stamos titles his paintings at various stages in their development, as the work reminds him of something he has seen. Because each painting is an experiential blend, titles are not literal; they act as keyholes into possible underlying meanings” (B. Cavaliere, ibid., p. 4).

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