Excerpted from Reminiscences,
by Frances Stillman, 1988
"...It was in the fall of 1947 or perhaps the
spring of 1948 that Bertha Schaefer opened her gallery on 57th
Street. She had been widely known for years as an interior decorator,
but for some time she had been eager to widen the scope of her
work and to gather around her a group of representative painters.
She wanted to advance the idea that one shouldn't choose a painting
to fit in with the decor of a room, that one should choose a painting
or paintings he or she would want to live with, and then build
the tone of the room around the painting or paintings. She talked
with Ary about this a number of times they had been friends
for years and when she was prepared to exhibit her first
group show she asked Ary to send in a painting. Milton Avery was
in that show I recall, and Will Barnet, Ben Zion, Sue Fuller,
Ary and others I can't remember. From this came a continued association
for Ary with Bertha's gallery many group shows, and a series
of five one-man shows, beginning in February 1949 through 1954,
until we left New York for Paris..."
January 21 - February 9, 1952
"Ary Stillman: This artist continues the exploration
of the non-objective territory bounded by Kandinsky and MacIver.
This year's paintings are in oil and as always maintain a high
standard of metier.
In these paintings, interweaving black lines—sometimes
abrupt, sometimes undulant—like charcoal strokes on a colored
rock-face, guide the eye among amorphous areas of color. Stillman's
linear patterns have always been decidedly musical. This year
they are choppier than last, as if he had been listening to Bartok
instead of Debussy.
Many things are suggested—the outlines of
dancing spirits, prismatic frames floating in space, an enchanted
forest seen through a mesh of creepers. In the most recent paintings,
worm-eaten or fungoid textures are built up in places. The distribution
of colors often creates an illusion of misty depth and spaciousness.
And now black squares and triangles are placed among areas of
The exhibition marks a definite advance. The two
elements which make up Stillman's paintings—line and amorphous
color—are better integrated, and the work is more vigorous
and complex than before."
by J. F.
The Art Digest
January 15, 1952
"Poetic abstractions, quiet and sensitive,
rhythmic and alive with subtle shimmering harmonies, characterize
the brooding oils by Ary Stillman. These are hung at the Bertha
Schaefer Gallery, 32 E. 57th Street, with some regard for the
role of a picture as a part of a room. Refined and disciplined,
the oils nevertheless retain a freedom of line and color pattern.
"A Phrase In Color," with gleaming reds drifting in
slow rhythms out of a background of browns and greens, "Interplay,"
fluid and rich, the handsome "Rondo I" and the darting
movements of "Rondo II" and "Kaleidoscope"
are among the best this veteran abstractionist has painted."
by A. L. Chanin
January 27, 1952
"...On the other hand, Ary Stillmans
paintings at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery carry abstraction deep
into its "romantic" phase. For him, plastic rhythms
are a means of evoking poetic content. Color, refulgent and suggestive,
stirs the visual imagination to respond to something beyond the
world of pure shapes. Texture and techniques are also used to
this end. No great distance, it must be said, is attempted in
this direction, but his work has an air of soft suggestiveness."
by Stuart Preston
The New York Times
Sunday, January 27, 1952
"Ary Stillman offers frank clews to his purpose—"Rhythms
in Gray,' 'Fugue' and 'Interplay' being among the titles of his
new canvases at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery. Here one has a widely
experienced artist, who has known picturesque themes. He has
adopted a method of painting now substantial, dim-hued and non-figurative.
A looping dark line tangles with splotches of blue, green and
gray in one canvas; in another there are lightning- like reds
zig-zagging dramatically through ominous tones of darker hue.
Often there is beauty of mood, a rhythm or cadence which distinguishes
a theme by its lyricism. But on the whole, for us, expression
is dulled rather than sharpened, and emotion boggs down in the
very depth and strength of the color he seems most interested
in using to give it a buoyant release."
by Carlyle Burrows
New York Herald Tribune
January 27, 1952
| Rondo I
Oil on Canvas
30 x 24
Kresge Art Museum, MI
| Rhythms in Gray
oil on canvas
44 x 36
Foundation Collection, TX
"Ary Stillman conveys a sense of respect for
materials and format. An unerring regard for allotted surface
endows even his more playful and intuitive canvases with compositional
integrity. His next tenure of the Bertha Schaefer Gallery begins
on the 21st. In this most agreeably balanced presentation of
recent oils we find a lyricism ranging from linear caprice to
deep and abiding emotion felt in interlocking masses. Delicately
mellow autumnal colors are stirred into articulation by adroit
accents and fluent contours. Stillman advances confidently into
the abstract, sustained by craftsmanship of a high order which
is veiled but not hidden by the immediate charm of his surfaces."
by Stanton Kreider
Pictures On Exhibit
"Ary Stillman describes his pictures as 'aesthetic
unit.' Over soft, grayed color, linear figures thrust the eye
into and abound the surface, describing various spatial movements.
Underneath are patches of color which melt at the edges and interlock
in amorphous arrangements. Each picture carries its own particular
mood, and the titles are often fairly descriptive of what the
pictures look like: 'Shadows,' 'Fantasy,' 'Blue Accent' and 'Kaleidoscope.'
The most positive is called 'A Phase in Color.' Despite the
abstract intentions, almost all the pictures have the sensation
of things. The Persian pottery, Oriental rugs and the other objects
and hangings in Stillman's studio reappear in disguise in these
gentle, undemonstrative pictures."
by L. C.