DescriptionThe Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection
WILLIAM LESTER STEVENS (American, 1888-1969)
Snow Scene with Train, 1920
Oil on canvas
24-7/8 x 29-1/2 inches (63.2 x 74.9 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: W. LESTER STEVENS 1920
Skinner, Boston, September 9, 1994, lot 250;
Phillips, New York, November 28, 2000, lot 175;
with Milner Fine Arts (stamp verso of frame);
with Spanierman Gallery, New York (label verso).
This muscular winter scene by Massachusetts landscape painter William Lester Stevens has the lush impasto he favored during the early decades of his career. Stevens applied the oil paint so that the fat strokes followed each form, as though he were confidently sculpting each round hill in this New England landscape and gouging out the recesses the formed the valleys.
Stevens was based in his picturesque hometown of Rockport, an artists' mecca, where he studied with Parker S. Perkins, and remained until 1934 with the exception of his period of art study at the Boston Museum School and in Europe just after World War I. After leaving Rockport, he headed for western Massachusetts, settling in Conway in 1944. Nicknamed "Steve," Stevens was considered eccentric, and compulsive about painting outdoors every day. Over the course of his life he produced nearly 5,000 paintings, roughly equivalent to the ultra-productive pre-Impressionist Eugene Boudin, another aficionado of plein-air painting. Fortunately, Stevens was a fair judge of his work. After one summer painting on Monhegan, for example, he is reported to have declared, "I've done 606 and got 6 good ones!"
Stevens was a passionate teacher as well. While he taught for short periods at Boston University and Princeton, he held frequent classes at his Conway studio as well as in Washington, D.C. and at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts. To study a variety of landscapes firsthand, he took his students to Asheville, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; Charleston, South Carolina; Quebec and Gaspé, Canada; and during the 1930s Stevens ran a summer art school at Grand Manan.
Throughout his career, Stevens regularly exhibited his work in the major annuals and biennials, as well as in smaller art clubs and academies, where his entries were often prize winners. He debuted at the precocious age of eighteen, in 1906, at the National Academy of Design in New York. He was a founder of the Rockport Artists Association, one of the oldest and most active arts organizations in the United States.
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