"Ary Stillman's dedication to painting was
never lost and the technical mastery which gave meaning was ever
present" wrote the late James Chillman,Jr. in a memorial
tribute to the artist, who died in January 1967. It was this dedication,
and a consuming desire to search for ever new avenues through
which he could express the meaning and spirit of life, that led
Stillman into several rather distinct periods in his painting
We first hear of him in Paris, as an accepted painter
in the Paris salons. He held his first one-man show at the Galerie
Bernheim-Jeune in 1928. "These are poems simple and direct"
wrote Maximilian Gautier. Other critics spoke of "the resonance
and profundity of his work", "the rich and extraordinarily
luminous colors", the "strange, mystic quality".
When Stillman returned to New York in 1934, Emily
Genauer was to say of him: "Ary Stillman... recalls the French
impressionists. But only if you can imagine them with a dash of
Old Master will you have Stillman. His work has a charm, a lyricism,
a luminosity which are most exciting."
While this phase of Stillman's work was definitely
representational it was never photographic. For he was even then
concerned with what he later called an "inner reality"
rather than a surface reality.
This desire to explore deeper the inner reality
became constantly more compelling, and the tragedy of World War
II with its break-down of the world as h had known it caused him
to abandon any attempt to express the surface reality, and to
involve himself completely in a world of his own making. Stillman
was soon deep in this self-created world, plunging ever farther
into the subconscious to call forth half-remembered visions and
sensations. The New York press found his work "richly orchestrated",
"alive with subtle shimmering harmonies", "non-objective
expressions of melodic colors." The New York Times declared,
in 1952 that "Ary Stillman's paintings carry abstraction
deep into its romantic phase. For him, plastic rhythms are a means
of evoking poetic content."
In 1955 Stillman returned to Paris and Majorca for
eighteen months, and then to Mexico, where he lived for five years,
with frequent visits after he took up residence in Houston in
1962. Now he had determined to devote all his energies to painting,
without regard to exhibitions or to any activities of the New
York scene. And here, as he said, he "invaded the world of
fantasy." In the introduction to the catalogue of the Houston
Museum of Fine Arts Ary Stillman retrospective in 1972, Richard
Teller Hirsch writes of this period: "Ary had responded to
the Sienese, the early Catalonians, and living in Mexico or within
his studio in Houston, he pondered Mayan riddles. He worked to
say powerful things evoked from strange dimensions of time, unmindful
of modish galleries. The Mayas (and the Incas) haunted him; his
brush moved boldly in answer to echoes within his mind as his
intuition evoked them."
Thus we find we can divide Ary Stillman s work
loosely into three periods representational, abstract,
and fantasy. Throughout, however, we find the same painter
idealist, individualist, romantic, mystic, eager for life and
eager to express through painting that which he felt and he dreamed.
|Israel Nachman Brodkey
oil on canvas
27 x 23 3/4
acrylic on canvas
17 x 13 1/2
oil and acrylic on canvas
36 x 44